By Stephanie Kartalopoulos
Somewhere after the houses burning from
beneath their heaviest frames, after
the red that rises in the wake of a recessed heat.
Somewhere after the third time
you told me to find my own hell
because I am too small to enter yours.
I am searching for the things that a younger you
begged me to depend on,
the implement to help me throw open every sallow curtain.
The issue of daybreak is important;
I am looking for what has left me here,
the something more
or less that rides out beyond
the tumbled light,
the color of river water after
the stones have been rinsed.
(Today’s poem originally appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.)
Stephanie Kartalopoulos teaches writing and literature and is completing her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Missouri, where she was the 2008-2012 Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry. Stephanie’s poems appear and are forthcoming in a variety of journals that include Barn Owl Review, So’wester, Thrush Poetry Journal, Pebble Lake Review, 32 Poems, Harpur Palate, Phoebe, and Laurel Review.
Editor’s Note: The experience of today’s poem lies, for me, in the world underneath. In the story behind the story that we, as the poem’s spectators, can only speculate and wonder about. I was first drawn to this piece in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s Breezy Point fires, to the idea of excavation and the uncovering of lives in the wake of destruction. What I found in my own experience of pulling remnants from the aftermath of this poem was not only a haunted quality, but also the strength of a poet who rebuilds her own scarred story with lines like, “Somewhere after the third time / you told me to find my own hell / because I am too small to enter yours.”