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.

Hell and Third Street Four Poems By Sarah Mackey Kirby

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine, Sarah Mackey Kirby

Sarah Mackey Kirby



I found you folded

like worn sweats faded into

the Tuesday doldrums.

Succumbed to monotony

of a grapefruit-lodged gut

that never eased its tension.


Into feel-nothing-refuge

that patterned your mornings.

Counting days in iced tea sips

and commutes to work.

Gone to the protected place

of dryer-lost socks.

Waiting to be lifted

from mindless trips

to the garbage can.


Long past the shock

that rendered you collapsed.

Past the brine

that pooled from your chin

into the nighttime ether,

bleeding its darkened howls.


You were folded.

Left to weight-press echoes.

How our love began…

A father’s remnants

crushing his son.


Hell and Third Street


It was winter loft corner

of Hell and Third Street.

Smoke-blessed fog

slogging don’t-give-a-shits.

Nighttime-knock boys

majoring sly winks.

Impressing to press clits.


Girlfriends crowded car ride,

last-minute lipstick touchup.

No elbow-room,

sweet spritz,

misguided midnight club

dance freedom below

December-glow stars.


Au revoir lime twist in

guitar-kissed icy air

road trip. Snaps to hip-hop

and punk rock sound, driving

down to What’s-that-town,

Deep South Louisiana.

Laughs in knotted sheets,

cold draft blows of


we-were-thinking breeze.


Spin-walking cusp of

just twenty-one fun

and plain ol’ Shew,

if-Momma-knew sin.

Chill-rain morning


days. Shaking heads

at can’t-do-thats

and those no-ways.

Orange juice hugs

’mid don’t-care gleam.

Pretty-ruse dreams.

With time to spare.


 Nighttime Ritual


Teeth brushed, cozy covers waiting

tired days, holding close

cloudy dark through window

emitting star stains.

She, in pain, smiles away.

He, the same, for her sake.

I love you, she says.

Me too.

Time of twisted nights,

pressed skin

turned defeat of scarcer breath

and rhythm hard-to-beat.

Forced to wait for

slower news and calm-down fate.

For early days’ sultry plays

to come around again.

And kiss-led moves.

Where troubles collapse

tangled legs bliss.




She died sunk into disbelief.

Splayed Greek

tragic allegory.

Her welded

Plato imprisonment

freed without a phone call

or goodbye text.


Naked mind

shaken from bondage

in bed smelling

wet, shampooed hair.

popcorn-dotted nightstand

fragments of ambiguity, turned



Old school jam background

false indicator of a happy mood.

Years of uneven rhythm,

tear-dripped throw, dried

to shadows wrapping the night.


Wing-dressed for the taking.

Dreams slipped

in denim pockets,

to be forever carried

by those who loved her most.


Bio:  Sarah Mackey Kirby holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.  Her poetry, writing, and photography have been published in Dream Noir and US News & World Report. She and her husband share their Kentucky home with a sweet cat and misbehaving Cockapoo.