Karl Kirchwey

Once in Italy, in the far south,
            after twenty-five hundred years,
I saw a Greek pot painted with

three women running left-to-right,
            each with a whip in her fist,
flailing herself on, while an alphabet

named them in retrograde motion.
            One was called Beautiful,
then there was Little Red or Ginger, in

the moment between girlhood and marriage,
            and last of all came Honored.
They could not stop, in their passage,

but last night I watched you. Without hurry,
            your fingers explored the ribbed flatware,
the salt cellar’s tarnished belly,

and lingered at the terracotta pitcher’s
            pale blue throat as if it would speak,
saying Girl, saying Daughter, Demeter’s.
Karl Kirchwey is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Stumbling Blocks: Roman Poems (2017). His translation of Paul Verlaine’s first book is Poems Under Saturn and he is working on a first Selected Poems by Italian poet Giovanni Giudici (1924-2011). Other projects include a new book of poems entitled Good Apothecary, a long poem, Mutabor (2007-present), a new cycle of poems called “Mountain Epigrams,” and a book-length hybrid memoir about World War II and its aftermath entitled Grim Reapers: a Family History of Ambiguous Loss. He is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Boston University.


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