K. E. Ogden

Honorable Mention, 2021 Joe Bolton Poetry Award

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fourteen
Winter 2021-22

Kicker Rock

It juts from the water like two rotting teeth.
From the sand, we stare out across

the blue expanse of San Cristobal.
This is the place you are dying. 

Frigate birds swoop above,
their angled wings like pterodactyls.

Your grave is a broken, seasick thing.
When I woke this morning, I wasn’t yet

an orphan. Soon I’ll run my hands
across the rock’s bird shit surface.

Darwin says each slight variation
is preserved by natural selection.

I am still here, then, a deviation.
We circulate in one another’s blood. 

The Hungriest Moth

In silk-spun tents spanning clusters of branches,
Gypsy Moths eat through my sleep. The summer
Father died, they died by the hundreds. Tree fungus.
The frozen, milk-beige moths blackened trunks
until songbirds plucked them. To keep my father alive,
I arrange questions around his bed like graceful ghosts.
I swallow stones and hope I’ll sink. He and I walk
the cemeteries and find bald trees, roots dug up
with jackhammers. We saw a young girl fall asleep
in the forest. The Gypsy Moths webbed her mouth,
her eyes. Their cocoons were tethered hot-air balloons
waving from tree tops. After my father died,
I roamed his house looking for him. I found letters,
a handkerchief, a wallet, his teeth. I took it all.
Some nights I return to where the girl hatched
and I perform experiments. I see white teeth 
in each cocoon. If I cut little squares into my body,
Father, could you look inside to see if I’m moving?

The Great Sphinx

In the last letter she wrote:
              I am getting older. It’s becoming too late
              to do anything of consequence.

Just like that.
Giving up so easy.

In a scrapbook there’s a photo of me I love:
My birthday at Grandma’s. I’m turning four.
I’m wearing a blue shift dress with white lines
marking my body into boxes.

An eyelet collar squares each shoulder. 
White knee socks. Shiny black shoes. I am a catalogue
girl with the whole world in front of me!

Hand on my hip, big smile,
pink and red party hat on my head.

In her last letter she wrote about the Great Sphinx:
              It weighs more than an asteroid!
              It was built 5000 years ago!

I’m wringing my hands because I’m afraid of death.

              Tell me how you started putting butter in your coffee,

is what she writes next. Then

              Last night I dreamt of a pan full of sizzling piranhas,
              teeth shivering in their steaming mouths.

I think we should all be standing on our forepaws,
looking over the head of the Sphinx
to see what’s out there.

              It’s hailing golf balls here today!
              I’ll bet it’s sunny where you are.

My daughter calls to say she’s made it
to her play rehearsal early.
Everyone is eating birthday cake, she says. 

The 34th Year

after Andrew Grace

Blacked out year of the undone:
clothes-washing, cat box cleaning, bill-
paying. Year of forgot to breathe. No breathing.
Heaving muscles through a sieve. Dead
ivy sliding along gutters to a piss-drenched ocean.
Abandoned cats, one with its ear torn off, belly distended,
another limping, its entrails uncoiled.

              The year mother held up her breast
              and they took it. I didn’t notice I’d
              disappeared. The year father’s pancreas
              went rotten. Year of black 

holes. Tantrum year. Stirring along the banks
near the deep river. X’d out, marked out, blackout year.
Virgin scars rising to the surfaces. Paper-thin memory.
Benumbed year of pushing through.

K. E. OGDEN is winner of the 2021 Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices Chapbook Prize. Her book What the Body Already Knows will be available in September 2022. A poet, essayist, book artist, and educator, K.E. Ogden grew up in Honolulu, Hawai’i and spent much of her life in California and southeast Louisiana. She is a former recipient of the China Poetry Fellowship from the Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics at Cal State Los Angeles and a poet laureate of Gambier, Ohio where she teaches every summer in the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshops. A typewriter user and lover of oceans, she lives in Los Angeles with her high school sweetheart, artist Mathew Digges. Visit her on the web at kirstenogden.com.

Cover image by Lee Miller.
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