Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet. She is the author of the poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired, 2021). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Impspired Magazine, Chiron Review, Cajun Mutt Press, and elsewhere. She and her husband live in Louisville, Kentucky. https://smkirby.com/

Reflections on Losing My Brain

Today, Sudoku can go to hell.
No puzzle can muzzle this towel-throw-yell,
into nerve fiber gutters that bundle to shell.
How white matter subways
derail off the tracks. This unfailing
flailing that packs such a punch.
Connections to gateways
of the Me that once was.
These memory-sack,
mind-blow, just-I-know
coup d'états.

A couple folks told me
I write like a beast,
but I’ve got some secrets.
I’ve some secrets. 
I’ve some secrets
I keep.

I can analyze Whitman. Angelou. Hughes.
But it still takes too long
to tie my own shoes.
I can organize sentences, throw down a few rhymes,
but it’s calculus-hard to add eighteen plus five.

Left. Right. Left.
Left. Right. Left.
I don’t know my left from right.
Half the time. Half the time.
What the heck is that about.
(I bet you just sang that!)
Has someone high up filed an injunction
against my executive function? Hmm.
(I’ll think about that one and report 
back at my earliest convenience.)

I lie in wait for my numb hand to reach
and startle at garble when there’s slur in my speech.
The theft of my balance. The weight of my mind.
The NASA-grade plastic,
this new skull I find.
The drifting of memory.
Deep, hardcore pain.
Heart. Soul. Artery. Vein.
Of asking a brain
to disrobe. Enter probe.
Salt-smidgen of anguish, 
and I’m left to languish
in stretches of scar on parietal lobe.

This is a stanza of pigeon shit.
A bonanza of random shit.
I’m pseudo-Dr. Seussin’ it.
Fooled ya. Fooled ya.
Nanna Nanna Boo Boo.
Sky blue. Kangaroo.
Kept this from you.
(From me too. ’Cause I can’t face it.
Sometimes.)

Let’s keep flowin’
Back to the PO-EM!

Am I undone?
Raw introspection, hating reflection.
The break of the rub
and new disconnection.
Knowing my students, no question,
too cool for school, are acting a fool
for the sub. But I’m tied up to wires,
a failure to fire at synapse’s snub.
Wait. That was a while ago.
I dub myself Lost
(to time again).

Ring around the teacher.
A noggin full’uh seizures.
Caches. Crashes.
I have most def fallen down (especially when walking downhill... 
ooh and once in the shower).
But hey, whattaya gonna do.
Only a bruised ego (and body).

I search for my words and beg to be sprung.
Haunted and taunted. Brain fighting tongue.
And my hopes—I can’t hear ’em.
My dreams—I can’t see ’em.
Sexy cell death in my mind’s mausoleum.
And I cry. And I cry. God, do I cry
lots of tears.
I just don’t let y’all in on ’em.

What’s in a head?
An ache. Yes, of course!
An ache. I’m tired.
Getting more ramble-y
Like my thoughts,
on a typical Monday.
Rhythm fraught.
My focus and effort. Shew, for naught.

I hope for forgiveness
for acting alright.
For feigning this badass
who continues to fight.
When truth is my do-this
is losing its might.
Losses of processes,
I survive on the lie
that some end is in sight.
Is an end in sight!

Only so much
of one Me can endure.
In search of the pre-Me—that dishonest allure.
That still-could-remember-and-get-through-the-day Me.
But hey…this is the new Me.
My breadth isn’t broad
Oh how I laud,
that dark curls cover up
the depth of my fraud.

Hey, Heart Failure

Ooh, aren’t you a nasty, contemptuous 
little bitch. That’s right, I’m talking to you. 
We just may have to throw down. You know,
ninth-grade-girl-she-took-my-pimple-handsome-man 
style. Well, that is, if I wasn’t such a lady and all
with sweet-tea manners and a bless-your-heart 
approach to confrontation.

See, where I’m from, it’s impolite to get all
up in people’s ventricles. You need to 
mind your own. And I know 
you think your energy-zap vein slaps 
have calcium-deposited me into
some beat-down (no pun intended) 
submission. Um-um. Oh no, 
you need to listen.

We’re fixin’ to have a real-talk, 
heart-to-heart (again, no pun intended)
discussion to clear up any miscommunication. 
Because, though you realistically have the upper hand
given historical precedent, this is where 
I tell you to shove your oracle-contending, 
statistical-referencing up your tricuspid valve
before I electrically charge you.
See, you're no match for my propensity
toward resiliency. And sugar pie, that die stuff 
just doesn’t fly with me. And never has.
Well, you know, that’s what I’d say
if I wasn’t such a lady and all.

Today Belongs to Me

Give him joy tomorrow and each day after this.
Fresh lime twists. And way-up highs.
Every slice of yet-to-come baked in apple pie.
All the warmth of cinnamon
and sweetness of Divine.
Out-loud-laughs and finger snaps.
Every chance and all the time.
Free-from-hard in circumstance.
But I’ve got a caveat. Today belongs to me.

And see that spot of apricot
trace that space of sky?
Reminds me of the day we met
and years between I can’t forget.
So give him every storm-free cloud,
the midday grays and blues.
The constellations and the moon.
Comets soon to travel through.
But that splash of paint in sky-marked scene 
where our We began, that sacred stain 
above the sand, I’m keeping just for me.

And the world can have those gems of his.
All his jokes and t-shirt holes,
his eye-roll fire-stokes,
his tough-guy shell but gentleness,
that stunning lack of elegance.
His cunning and his sharp retorts.
His TV cusses watching sports
and music he plays way too loud
that knocks me off my seat.
All the stuff that drives me nuts,
his strength that pulls me out of ruts,
the earth can keep those too.

But how it feels to see him smile,
and what it’s like to feel his hugs,
his unfixed bugs that make him mine.
His hide-close worries wrapped in calm 
splayed out unrefined. The him whose love 
has made us We and keeps us from goodbye.
I’m taking those with me.

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