RE Katz

Dura Mater

By RE Katz

In the fox dead there are rivalries:
around whose neck will we unfurl
& whose makings will we glove
& where we used to run
are there still runners
& if not are there mourners
& if not is there
at the very least
morning—a room
where bits of poured
sun cool17.

Crickets in the mint: what
it means or what is meant
woods over
to play a game of roulette
closed-eyed in the backseat
head on the door
sun red sun.

Stop: my mother has a heart attack
& doesn’t call me until three days
later when they let her out
of the hospital18.

In an operetta
a handgun
with the ability to feel pain
falls in love
with a human liver
in crisis. When the liver
finally speaks
all it says is
none of this is useable.

The king of the forest is both animal & fruit
& has two throats
of gunpowder & light.
If you bury your gun in the ground
it will grow into a cigarillo factory.

To the melonhearts in garnet mines
say at least there are birthdays.
Our birthdays are neighbors19
flatness is an axis.

Stop: my mother calls to report her blood
pressure & I eat three slices of cake
thinking about how on a family cruise I once saw
an ice sculpture of an endangered dolphin—
it was such a goner.

I touch myself
with a square
of trembling bent light20.

Stop: the ladder is lying on the floor
in the fetal position muttering
I am not
tall I am not tall I am
not tall.

Describe what it feels like
using only your shoulder
what taproot rapport
to go tail-up to work.
The nervous system will sell you a map
of its pitfalls in a sealed unpolished container:
the floating ribs
the little hips of the brass section
vertebrae and their inner stipends
the clavicle unchaperoned

poor head
hates itself
for not being able to get down.

It takes years to appreciate
the inside of a couch
glitter in a meat grinder
a fallaway promenade21.

I let it kiss
a full third of my face then
feetfoot away. Fool that elbow
crook. Leg of it
a low note. Yawn of it
very skied.

Hover here if need be
for a plum gradient22
a one-night raisin.
If you’re not staying famous
you can stay
in my basement.

Stop: mother bored23
Lullabies into my brain.

I’m not afraid of my own blood but of
parenting transparencies.
A mustard from my brain is leaking
painting a fake24
fence that levitates
a fence that can be chased
a face
a thin-lipped paste.

The tyranny of being interesting says take
the solo when the solo is offered
but nobody hurt each other
in the orange juice
out there.

So it’s Monday morning &
here I am doing
my donut-on-a-stick kind of thing
and there’s this guy
leaning against the water cooler
talking about how he used to be
a stage acrobat
and I say hey guy well I’ve never
seen someone do
a boring backflip
but anything is possible25—Stop: 

shiver-call your mother!
flock what she’s doing
just raft her now or
terminate her.

People used to be afraid of women
so of course I am overwhelmed with love
for Sarah Connor
all three of her
how needles bow to her
every piece of the franchise.

Centuries ago the Fox sisters heard tapping
from the other side26
three shuffling heads
tsk-tsking at the great beyond.

Somewhere cockroaches are having
almost a block party
they collect around our feet
because we feed them & care
for them & step on their heads

& if each of us is the only exception
to every ugly thing forever27 then aren’t we also
a hard mother.

Originally published 4/22/15 within her Awst Collection. This piece is the second piece from her chapbook. The third piece, Toeing the Real, is an essay of annotations based on the first two pieces and was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. 

Soft Teeth

By RE Katz

"Homo, sacra res homini." –Seneca

Man is a wolf to man.

In September of 2001, my sister and I had our hearts broken. My breakup was a volatile month-long extrication that ended with my boyfriend moving across the world. Hers was simple, dispassionate.

The ease with which her gloomy paramour withdrew from her life undid her completely.

During that time, we only had the language to talk about one thing; and so we did.

From her diary:

“What is the point of anything if [relationships] can disintegrate into their own footprints like the elegiac steel of the twin towers.”

And from mine:

“Every love is a burning building. How can that be true?”

We each spent the next couple of years bumming around Detroit, sloughing off the remains.

I moved to Berlin when the war began. I had contacted a filmmaker named Sasha V. there on a whim after seeing his installation in New York, and convinced myself that I could learn something from him. He had the most beautiful hands. He shot on film and slept only two hours a night.

I followed him around the city that spring, sipping the chromatic unconcern of Central Europe.

My sister mailed a series of letters that convinced me that she was speaking only to her television.

Oprah told these women that

         positions of power
         late               and you know
I’ve always felt like your Jan.

Once, Sasha was invited to screen his work at a small film festival in Paris. He told me that he was bored with Paris, and sent me in his place. I bought an overnight train ticket and settled into a vacant compartment on a nearly empty train.

At first light, I awoke to a strange man sitting in my compartment. He was awake and smiling at me. A dusty beam of sunlight played on the lenses of his glasses.

“It’s like our living room here,” he said to me. He laughed, a monosyllabic airy grunt. I felt instantly disarmed. He was attending medical school in Munich but his home, he said, was in Iraq. He spoke like a grandfatherly stand-up comic. I asked him if he was visiting Iraq again anytime soon.

“No, I’ll never go back,” he said.

“Why?” I wanted to know.

“Because I love my country,” he stared at the seat cushion behind me, “I loved it.”

When I arrived at my room in Paris, a letter from my sister was waiting for me.

        and I’ve met a real
When he speaks
daggers out of my heart
up roses
up all night
        no Mary Tyler Moore.

Sasha’s film tanked at the festival. The French thought that it was dated and unsexy. They did not like that the two characters slept through the film, the breath of their bodies rising in the fire’s dying flicker. They did not want to know how a wolf could be still in the arms of a man, not even in the darkest tundra. They could not tolerate that in twenty-one minutes of footage, the only visible action was the wolf’s dream of running: the tender kicking, one leg and then the other.

“You were right about Paris,” I told Sasha on the phone. He didn’t ask what had happened. I packed and left for Gare du Leon.

My old lover, who had been offered work in Paris just before we parted, was now finishing his fellowship at the International School. He had been trying to meet with me all week, and so I finally agreed to have coffee with him at the station. We had not seen each other in half a decade.

We spoke quietly in the present tense; we idled over romance languages and weather talk. When the time came to say goodbye, we embraced. When I moved to retreat, he put his head down on my chest. Then he turned his head and bit my arm so hard I cried out. He kissed me on the cheek and walked away.

The bruise was deep and shaped like his mouth. It stayed for weeks.

Even kindness has teeth, soft teeth.

How do we memorialize our own demolished sites? What is it to apologize? How to be silent?

I count the teeth, the fanned out flowers.

This originally appeared in Gigantic Sequins 5.1.


By RE Katz

Adam, this is just to say that I will not be able to make it to your wedding. First of all, I don’t eat chicken or halibut. I also don’t eat steak or vegetable medleys. There’s really no reason for me to spoil everyone else’s dinner.

I think your fiancée’s great-aunt is my old piano teacher, and I can’t risk that we’d be seated at the same table. I think the woman carries that creepy old metronome around in her pocketbook. I can still hear it.

Also, I have a voucher for one Zumba class. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually a special class with one of the founders of the art-science of Zumba. It can be really hard to get into, and I want to keep my options open.

On the refrigerator magnet you sent me of you and Leigh (did I spell that right?) posing in those floral arrangements, she looks a lot like a character from Tales from the Crypt that I’ve been afraid of since I was a kid. I think that it would really trigger me to see her that way in person, all zombie bride, you understand.

And anyway, as of last week I’ve suddenly developed a severe allergy to long periods of direct sunlight. My dermatologist says that unless you move the ceremony inside, it would be absolutely toxic for me to attend.

Not to mention, I might be in New Zealand. U.S. Airways has been sending me some unbelievable deals lately, and they say that it’s the best time to go. You know, I have been meaning to go back for so long.

Lately, I referee bocce ball tournaments Saturday afternoons at the retirement community on Decatur Street. They get really competitive, and last week, we had a woman try to run down another woman with her rolling walker. It turns out they were roommates and the resentment between them had been building awhile over a situation with the TV remote.

Then there’s the matter of me having nothing to wear. Really though, I just donated most of my clothes to an organization that makes quilts from old clothing fabric. They needed a lot of my dresses for just one quilt.

Did I tell you, my father is having cataract surgery around that time? I have to be able to drive him wherever he needs to go at any given time. He can’t see, Adam.

The party is at the Highland Ridge Club, and of course, I’m banned for life. Don’t you remember? How could you not remember that day we parked our bikes at the club so that we could swim in that beautiful restricted waterfall area, and then when they came and found us and asked us to leave, we took our time. We made such a mess of the main dining room. We walked through the whole place in the middle of the day with our suits dripping over the midcentury Moroccan rugs. Then we went out to get our bikes and I broke a window, just for good measure. I remember the look on your face. You wished you’d done it.

When we met up last summer at the old café and you bought me that piece of carrot cake but you wouldn’t have a bite, not even a single bite of it, you looked into my eyes and told me that you missed me. I’ve been eating carrot cake a lot since then. It’s really all I eat. I can’t be eating other kinds of cake right now, Adam.

This story was originally published in Paper Darts.

The More I Look the More You Become

By RE Katz

I think there were a lot of bright spots in that pure punishing meadow:  handholding, making our bouquet of fists, Yam in Yam under parliaments of dead songbirds. Scientists agree when removing their bird brains, they sing like it's Christmas at the Cloud Farm. No one has been to the Basilica since the fire. No one has been to the Rubric, no foothold in that beauty mark. The pallor of Infinity is sickening. Every thing comes back together, you know. Me for instance. Me for the win, for the record the fastest swimmer to go on dog-paddling without ever tasting the Pacific Ocean. Scientists agree we were born swaddled by glowworms inside some volcanic ring. When they say Now What it looks like morning. Science I will make a hat out of my longing for you. I will wear it in the desert all those lemon-faced days. I have crashed here like a wild speck and started building. My heart is condos for you. My vowels rip out soft like weather. Am I a wrong thing when I want you waiting for me on a bed of lettuce? Something amazing to happen. A meteor in my plate. So what if you have been living inside your Moss too long. Here you might find me: a lost thing starfish-curled into an ordinary pink ball. Your wingtips are sanded down like saltlicks. You are not sipping a glass of water but what is photogenic about water. Well I say god is my high horse and we sidewalk each other. And Generosity like pinkeye is an art. It is important to feel the Ants and know they are building your body. If I am saying I miss you, it is like this: I move in the shape of trying not to see the same dead Bird for the third time today. The Bird is in front of your house.

This poem first appeared in Any Berry You Like, iO Books.

Fancy Gap

By RE Katz

This is that recurring dream: the morning.

Custodian of glitter two ways
keeper of the world's own
curio cabinet of toilet seat art.

Imagine the Pope
we must. Imagine

the ceremonial naming of the breakfast pastries
at Au Bon Pain. Why not adopt a skull
with wings? Why not
adopt some kid with braces or spacers
the downed phonelines of metro-ortho
astral projection?

We must imagine men
wearing pearls
if we can.

We must hang together in our crysallis
between the friendless poles or drown
in premium soysauce. We must imagine
better endings for women. Better
endings for the miniature golf course
than "this baby deer has a twelve-point
rack" and standing water.

Our eyes like fish have
no second thoughts (so
up yours snorkel up
yours). We give birth
to a child of sugarless gum
more gray and more blue
than a pale tin of
magenta. We call him
Hunting Accident or
"the invention of mauve".

Why not make an unexpected residue
to send to opera school? We imagine
distributing ourselves in glass
envelopes hardboiled.

When we ask an actress to come in and cry
for all the digressions from the human body
we must be able to imagine her saying
No Thankyou. 

Originally published in jubilat.


By RE Katz

Jana’s the worst mom. Whenever I get there the kid’s always wandering out the sliding door already toeing the pool or trying to stick his head in the George Foreman grill or something. He climbed a bookshelf once in the basement and the whole thing—all two-hundred pounds of it—fell on top of him and he was purple by the time they found him. I’ve only met the dad a few times over the years, but he’s some kind of lunatic inventor who sleeps in the pool house. At least this time when I get there and the front door’s open and the kid is watching TV sitting in a puddle of something that I hope is not his own urine, Jana calls down that she’s in the bathroom.

“Be out in a minute,” she says and she goes back to singing Joni Mitchell.

“What is it?” I say to the kid, pointing to the puddle.

“Lemonade,” he says, pressing his fingers together and pulling them apart so I can see the sticky seal. The kid has a special relationship with juice.

I trot up to the linen closet for a washcloth.

“I met a redneck on a gray-shit isle,” sings Jana. I can see her through a crack in the door humming and bouncing lightly and wiping her ass.

“I think it’s Grecian,” I say.

“Either way,” she says, “have you ever been to Greece?”

“I just got back from New Jersey,” I say.

“It’s so humid out today,” Jana says, pulling up her pants. “Right now Walter is working on this tiny eco-friendly air-conditioner that you can wear in your jeans. It’s completely brilliant.”

“Maybe we should swim while you’re gone,” I say.

“No he already knows he can’t go in the pool today,” she says. “They just put in those toxic chemicals. He’s pretty upset about it.”

“Ah,” I say, “did you make lemonade?”

“Yeah,” she says, “help yourself. So this little air-conditioner, it’s the size of a dollhouse window. It’s a miniature window-unit. It’s like a normal air-conditioner, just smaller.”

“That’s great,” I say.

“People are going to go crazy for it,” she says.”

“But I don’t understand: if it’s made to put in your pants, then why make it like a normal air-conditioner shape?”

“What?” she says, shaking her head and fanning herself. “I’m sorry,” she says, “I can’t really pay attention right now. I’m melting.”

“Yeah, it’s hot,” I say. Walter is not a very good inventor.

We hear a splash outside, and I am running down the stairs and out the sliding door and I am shouting the kid’s name, and I am still shouting, expecting to be shouting along with her, but she is just now coming down. I know because I am shouting and I can still hear her somewhere singing Joni Mitchell. I’m pulling the kid out of the water and she strolls over.

“Ow,” he says, and I am checking him frantically to make sure he isn’t turning green or glowing or going blind or anything from the chemicals. “Ow,” he says, pointing down. He scraped his foot getting out.

“Natural consequences,” she says to me, smirking.

There’s a group of mean thirteen-year-olds who have the babysitting market in this neighborhood cornered, and they won’t even go near this place because there’s too much liability involved. Thirteen-year-olds would make really good lawyers, and I would make a terrible lawyer, which is why I’m now a two-time dropout.

“Come on,” I say to the kid, “let’s make another batch of lemonade.”

When I started sitting for the kid eight years ago, he was a difficult baby. He couldn’t fall asleep unless he was watching the old VHS tape that came with Jana’s juicer, which explained the juicer’s functions in thirty methodical episodes. It started with citrus, and then the root stuff, and then he was out like a light every time.

Originally published at Matchbook.

I Found the Crawlspace Roomy

By RE Katz

Our secret is a scream. I believe you were
born a silo filled to the brim with
jazz. Not the kind anyone would want
at a pool party or in a mine, which
is probably why you give me a sidehug
like you're concealing a weapon or a
wild animal virus. There was no time
you were not gone, saying look we
can leave each other breath marks
in the regular air. Now there are balloons
in the breeze, like closed captioning.
I want to make a car show with every
car I’ve ever cried in. All lined up they
will communicate something so simple it is
a kind of birdseed. It is "the ceiling is
so bare". Because I love you I will
bend you backward as far as you
can go and lean over your hot right
angle of a body so that I may spit champagne
carefully onto your face. This has a lot to do
with the time we bought a hundred grilled
cheese sandwiches and handed them out on
the streets of Central Square. This has a lot
to do with milk and math and how the
airport is just the worst kind of weather.

Originally published in Issue 9 of Bat City Review.