Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Boston Literary Magazine, Connecticut River Review, Impspired, Muddy River Poetry Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Teaching and a BA in Political Science. She is focusing on her writing and taking a break from teaching high school history to students who nicknamed her Momma Kirbs and kept her current on young folk lingo.

Compass from the Ruins

I wonder if your dad hadn’t died
whether we would have met.
Or if he’d done it a different way.
Something less son-wrecking
than with rope, waiting
for you to find him
among old boxes and garage tools.
If your heart had been just a little
less shredded, the pictures in your head
a bit less acidic.
If we would have happened.
 
Or if I’d stayed home, and
that chilly Spring night
hadn’t become notable.
Instead, jamming to CDs
or gossiping with girlfriends.
Not a night that left me gutted
and afraid of men.
Watchful for underground monsters
below a dormant-moon-drawn sky.
 
Or if I hadn’t stayed in town for school
because yet another surgery
destroyed yet another plan.
With my Boston fresh start
smithereen-dropped on a Friday afternoon.
Through the pizza serving years
and cocktail waitress midnight
star-scatters. Drunk-hollers and thigh pinches.
Closing off my senses.
Piecing together rent and medical bills
amid touchdown ruckus.
 
Would we have somehow still met?
If you hadn’t gotten laid off
from work you took after your crushing.
Post your no haircut, living aimless phase,
resigned to don’t-give-a-fucks.
And you hadn’t moved South 
to a place of more sun and no memories.
 
If you hadn’t been assigned
a cubicle next to my friend.
And she hadn’t called me
to tell me she worked with
an awesome not-a-desk-job-type guy,
who didn’t like coffee
and told jokes during no-joke meetings.
Or if you hadn’t listened
when she told you to call me.
And I hadn’t answered my phone
one icy Winter evening
that would lift us into the next seventeen years.

Boxing Nights

Only time you prayed.
Some profanity juxtaposed
next to Jesus.
Coz those were nights “shit”
could be said in front of kids.
And pool hall attitude
could lounge in the living room.
 
Fight nights hiding your gentle.
Half off your chair
leaning you’ll-hurt-your-eyes
close to the TV.
Still smelling of backyard cigar,
lit brick patio, watching
stars break through the sky.
 
Peanut-shells-drop-carpet times.
White hair wrapping your neck,
annoyed your own cough
cut off the announcers.
Brooklyn boy cracks
shaking out the years.
 
Knockout-watch nights.
Left hooks and jabs grabbing hold
of your guts and that usually
settled tongue sprung free. Those
“Everybody-shut-the-hell-up” hours.
Bells ringing and you standing
yelling through the countdowns.
 
How you let me sit on the floor
next to you.
Coz during our no-nonsense
chess matches and morning walks,
you’d given me the heads up
about which “sons-uh-bitches”
had it coming that night.
Only granddaughters could sit close.

To Hell with My Brave

I was born backed into a corner.
Knocking jaws. Spit-cussing
beats. Eye-cast meet-cute
with my retreat. Violating
nature’s law. Strut-humming
streets. Who am I
but the oopsy-daisy fruition-come
of God's lazy-day faux pas.
 
Jigsaw-pieced woman fleecing time.
Blowing kisses to hits.
Rug-swept ashes-to-dust,
begging please-you-must-forgive
in a hushed evening cry.
Committing the crime
of fighting to live. Scar-dressed,
acquiesced to the tear-smeared
appall that reaches rawest gut depth.
Each step a new cusp.
Cooking dinner
while rustling up
this fomented side-hustle
of my borrowed life’s
strained breath.
 
Battered and bloodied. Muddied
and swollen. Sick of the sick
in each day that I’ve stolen.
And nights of this fight,
staving off the depraved.
When’s it enough? To show I’ve atoned.
And for what? For not dying?
It's trying. I’m tired.
This sin that I own.
Done with this grip.
This unending
almost-tripped grave.
To hell with my brave.
Just leave me alone.
 

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