Katherine E. Young

Katherine E. Young’s poetry appears in the forthcoming Massachusetts Review. Her poems have also appeared in The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, and many others. For the last twenty-five years, Young has lived off and on in Russia and the former Soviet Union as a journalist, diplomat, business owner, and student of Russian poetry. A chapbook, Gentling the Bones, will be published by Finishing Line Press in late 2007.

 

Katherine E. Young '83


Hazmat


After the hazardous materials crew
has cleaned the rooms, I move among familiar
things, touching here and there a vase, a lamp,
straightening the absurdly clean cloth
in front of the baby’s place. We are obsessed
with decay, with bodily fluids, inconvenient
remnants of our animal selves. I think
of rabbis in latex gloves scraping the blood
from Jerusalem streets, of the Muslim custom
of burial within twenty-four hours.
Surely the bone hunters and reliquary
makers, the city fathers warring over
John the Baptist’s knucklebone had it right:
flesh is Essential. Flesh is Divine.

I subscribe to the religion of airplanes,
silver-winged vessels that transport a person
to realms unfamiliar, where alien temples
ennoble the hair, the nails, the body
and blood of obscure local saints. These are
my relics: a rug rescued from scissors, a cat
plucked from an engine, a book that — once —
would have won its possessor a bullet
in the skull. Some say Death’s an angel — this, too,
I have seen — flash of steel wings, whirlwind
of atomized flesh, dust carpeting rug,
cat, book, interior spaces and private
reliquaries, particles of shared disbelief.

 

 

From the SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW (42:2, 2003)