Ohio – Two Poems by Sarah Mackey Kirby

Poetry, Sarah Mackey Kirby

Bio: Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her first poetry collection, The Taste of Your Music (Impspired), will be published in 2021. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Chiron Review, Punk Noir, Impspired Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She loves to teach, cook, and travel. She and her husband live in Louisville


I measure time between us in trucks

and tree-lurking deer on the side of I-71.

Because two hours and twenty minutes

are easier to swallow counting potholes

and county lines, guiding the way from

landmark to landmark. From McDonalds

to gas station to faded sign for the last

Kentucky rest stop before the bridge.

And I calculate the distance between us

in cell signal drops and time stretches

with good songs on the radio.

150 miles isn’t far. But it’s too far.

And how much I miss you weighs more

the closer I get, past every sweep of violets

scattered wild throughout the heartbreak.

And a river’s symbolism changes

depending on the direction I go.

How North means a deep breath

before a sunlit Cincinnati skyline.

And I start to feel your arms gather me up,

knowing you’re just another hour

from that traffic-patterned hill

curving teeth into the music.

Where the Artists Hide

We strum knockouts and drum beatdowns

with hair-band-metal intensity,

sweating demons from our pores,

headbanging kisses of tragedy.

Lurk spit-covered and stomped on,

collecting cobwebs in the wood rot.

Spinning dreams and tossing out

poetry into an earless wasteland.

Open our mouths to sing Ave Maria

but muster only Gregorian chants

in monophonic tapestry of Hell.

Dripping cringe beneath our day jobs.

Hide in the grout lines,

photographing soap scum

and built-up streaks of mildew

disinfectant longs to kill.

We stand hopeful in the garden,

mixing palette paint for water lilies.

But somehow, canvas-slap Devoured-Son-absurdity

in shaky-hand Goya, tendered for the haunting.

We sit stoic-ignored in corners,

gauging pulses on our night watch.

Scribble gin-sexed, smoke haze thoughts,

penning gut-dredged monologues on napkins.

Pirouette into the clapping,

feigning grace in pointe-shoe-Giselle.

Toe blisters staining blood into the satin,

as we smile to conceal our screaming.

We splay thoughts that wake up nuance,

crying charred into the morning.

Offer words that walk the story.

We tithe wicked truth to angels.