Kate Gaskin

Incident at Stone Mountain


Things begin to disappear.

                                   Your keys, yes, but also
                         too many

             buttons from your shirt

                                                     and your name
                       sliding like an eel

into a dark nook
                                  and then darting back out
                     before fear

flames up, and here

                      in your palm
                                            you cup the tooth

you spit out while brushing
                                            and wonder

                      what else can go missing

from the body?

                                           What can be put

there, what taken away?



What it’s like to vanish.

Curtains, a comet, a gurney, arms
like thin white snakes, a face
and then another face, perihelion,
aphelion, hands with no fingernails,
a debris field spotted through a window
and then—snow falling softly at night.



The first time
you woke in a rye field
at the edge of town

among coyote holes
and purslane the color
of dried blood,

the sky was like the white
of a horse’s eye
rolled up, and a feeling

like the seconds
between seeing
and hearing lightning

grew roots in you
while all around
the day’s late crickets

screamed green and hungrily
from the shade
the hickories threw

and it was just like you
to not know where you were,
to not know where you were going.




What it’s like to be returned.

forgetting that you have hands
walking into a room
           as it turns into an ocean
a black snake cut in half
silver pincers with tine-like jaws
the brightest recorded comet
           in human history
the body made salt
the body made memory
the body made shame
a field so bright it whitens
remembering that, yes,
           you do have hands.


           Later you discover

three smooth
           scooped out
                                   from your stomach

as if with a melon baller
                                               and somewhere

            in a clean white ship

                                               divots of flesh
are numbered


This has happened
                                  before, visions

           of thrumming lights,
                                                        a wreath

of bone-sharp faces hovering

                                  in the dark above you,

                        hours that spook

            and scatter in fright.



The last thing you saw
before you were returned
was a room like an orb, an egg, a mouth

not a human mouth
but a question shaped like an inkblot,
shaped like a ship, shaped like suffering

and shot velvet with night,
and when it opened to say your name
you felt rooted,

pinned, collected, and the mouth
whose mouth? opened above, but it was
empty. It was filled with light.

Kate Gaskin

Kate Gaskin's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Nashville Review, Guernica, Bellevue Literary Review, Radar Poetry, Raleigh Review, and Sugar House Review among others. She grew up in Alabama and currently lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and son.