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Kat Black

Jar Baby

at 3, I broke a pillbug like bread and sopped it in the gluey lymph I called “blood.” 

then I jammed its head onto its body and waited: for the click of life restored to each locket-half, 

the affirmative silence of bug-breath. the ache impossible: be alive

at 17, i stood at the foot of my mother’s hospital bed. breath filled and fled her as violently as

a party horn. she snapped to with the brute optimism of a jewelry box: world, will you marry me,

and refusal was not an option.   

(I was calm. I was one matte lung: a zen garden raked by breath.) 


there is an infantile cruelty in the certainty of resurrection – in the mandate of hope. the

ventilator giveth, it taketh away.  

the cap of my mother’s skull lay defrosting on the surgeon’s countertop. next door, her brain

gasped in its white turban.  

we waited: for the shriek of wood from a mismatched nesting doll, cleft on its own shrunken

breast. for the spirit sucked slick into the lacquer of a Babushka smile. 

irreconcilable differences. 

she couldn’t speak, so we asked her to draw: a w and 3 trembly lines. water

i spooned wetted q-tips between her lips and waited: for the burr of discontent, a child’s wail

turbaned in shuttered, swollen flesh. the ache impossible.


my father almost died from a pierced throat. I killed him, I thought. I wished for his death.

 I rigged a prayer rope from a horse lead and flubbed the goitered beads between thumb &

forefinger. jesus christ son of god have mercy on me a sinner. kyrie eleison. christ son of god

have mercy on me. christ have mercy. B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-


stiff as a feather, light as a board. she said: I feel like I have nails inside my head. we said: you do

have nails inside your head. 


she heard her grandson crying and said: 

 I want to put him in a jar and screw the lid on tight. (later, she insisted she dreamt it.) 

I wondered: in the dream, did she watch and wait – for the click, the shriek, the pump of green

blood? did she poke holes in the lid? did she walk away, and when she returned, unscrew the lid

and breathe between his stoppered lips: water  


Kat Black is a queer non-binary poet and nonfiction writer whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Cagibi Journal and the poetry journals Sinister Wisdom and Skin to Skin. After placing in the 2013 Robin Becker Chapbook Contest, their chapbook The Paper God was published in 2017 by Seven Kitchens Press. Before moving to Seattle, they lived abroad for several years in Shanghai, China and London, UK.

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