Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her first poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired), will be published in May 2021. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Impspired Magazine, Chiron Review, Connecticut River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She and her husband live in Louisville. https://smkirby.com/ 

Like Freed Feet

When you see me you
still tell me I’m beautiful
like you used to during my 
inexplicable pleather pants,
peach lip gloss, showing off 
my naturally 80s hair,
out-to-hip-hop-dance days. 
And you still give me 
that damn-I-love-you
look. The one you gave me	
when you used to pick me up
all those years ago
as I was covered in salad dressing,
smelling of garlic, smoke,
and sweat after a double shift.
The Ramones radio-blasting
through window-down
August heat. And 
my feet, newly bare,
holy-hell-relieved 
on the car floormat.
Even now, 
somehow my with-you 
still feels like that.

Cocktail Waitress

Years ago, back in the day,
slingin’ them drinks
and smilin’ for pay.
Upping my dumb in a sleek hotel bar,
conceding my brain
to a numb avatar.
Had to laugh sweetly 
while your eyes fired lust.
How you knew you could treat me
while I hid my disgust.

Aww, bless your heart.
Ain’t you a smooth talker?
Thought you could grab me
’cause you drink Johnnie Walker
Blue. Yeah you.
The you who’d spew out loud crass.
The thicker the wallet,
the bigger the ass.

Oh Derby was special.
The highest high-rollers
strolled in drippin’ lavish
with jacket-flung shoulders.
Sippin’ those glasses. 
Knockin’ off socks.
With a twist of dry wit.
Dipshit on rocks.

Cloud of illusions. Infusion of airs.
Smoke-laden breath
where corners wrought scared.
But more tips came in 
if I drew out my drawl.
Deflated my dignity.
Inflated my ‘y’all’.
Till last call.

’Cause tuition ain’t free.
Sick isn’t cheap.
And crying could wait 
till trying to sleep.

Mapped

I am the lesson
borne of mistakes.
The cobblestone steps
her ancestors paved.
I am the refuse
stained wretched-shed tears.
The rough-breaking water
spinning her gears.

I am the woman
recording her maps.
Cartographer pointing
to dreams that collapsed.
I am the writer
weaving her web.
Fill-page-reminders
that I’m still not dead.

I am the magic
taught by Galileo.
The night-study-pattern
still trying to lay low.
I am the teacher
with too much to learn.
Sprung from a Hell
where her blood’s been interned.

I am the music
singing through gusts.
Freed from the locks
of you-betters and musts.
I am the sunlight
stomping short straws.
The bane of statistics.
The climber with claws.

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