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Four Poems

Kay Billie Oakes

The Perfume In Turning Water

It give of its names to the seasons 

like they was its own

It painted its own face on the bank


It laughed It ate the locust

It got down It prayed 


to the locust

They washed in pomade

the dead sovereigns

They cut the painted

chambers The Limestone

the color of gnashing teeth


The weather pissed down

heat, pissed shine on 

the naked blood plane 

after the bustup in The locals and their kin

The bleachred The color of rust

They mix pigment in hand

howlin songs

Who cleans all this off

like when dusk 

slips again, busts an ankle

Who bends their back to gather 



like grain

Say when, motherfucker

said in the dry 

face of the chimera,

to the jewels, to the wasted balm

Thing had a body 

like the paper nest 

of a yellow jacket

come down from the eaves

This directly before the fire

collected em

The both of em


How the walls

they blistered with engravings

And in them the mouths

of the prophets lay open

like gates

like it was laughter 


did em

I, the god of the

fucking Sun, have known 

of a pox and I drank of it 

The order that feeds

the current the red 

scent blossom 

The breaks cresting 

as the jaw of the coyote

Have I laid

in its breast





When you said

notta one knows 


a desert’s caught fire

in the high of the day


I lied to you 

I nod with

my neck


and before we come to this,

before they cut the quarry in



this was the plain deep 



Our hand did not lay half the peppertree 

In bermudagrass We were away then, neither was it rot 

The good neighbor will say the wind come 

Like, could it take anything 

And leave clean lines in the flesh

Of anything How I refuse to believe anything

In my own time What lights on the flush clearing 

Will lay a share open-jaw

Does a neighbor hear the wind in Fall?

By his lonesome Yeah, Jack He said Fuck You too

Ginny, Late April

So will rain lay the floor

cut and the clay mud open Sing

all the hellmouth to pass this 


way, in places Lo she put her 

face and palms on the wet cypress 

planks that do hold the yard 


to a half acre for The Woman 

may come again like the wraiths

Sayers of nothin — Wonder


what all she eats I wonder

that she gets enough to eat Hello

Hello, M’am at nothin, the kildeer 


Not on this day May she come

again to her garden for quiet I

will have the manners to say hello,


I swear it She left the fence, 

tore ass on the yard’s high edge

and inward to a new lake Her ankle 


laid blooms on the face of it

with glass in the mouth She sat

in water to look the high window


Say hand to God on the blood of our

feet Say cover y’mouth How with this weather

Mother got a ringin in Her ears

Curate, Water

The wash, a mess of 

Thick bloodcolor fabrics on 

A line Given to 


Wind, to this cold light 

Have I washed the small feet of 

A dying woman


Into the mirror 

Bowl Chase the light and filth

Behind, as through grain

Kay is a writer and educator in South Texas who just can’t stop thinkin about sleep and coyotes. His writing can be found in Strange Horizons, Brazos River Review, Deep South Magazine, Scalawag Magazine, and Menacing Hedge.

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