To You for Whom I Broke                                                                                 —Kathy Fagan

one promise,
I will not break

The snow deals
on, around, through.

It makes me want to stop
A snowflake’s singularity

becomes the burdensome
Creatures cocoon

in comas of survival.
I survived by falling
with it, I burned and blew,

never slept.
I walked and walked and walked

the meat of me
shone in glossy parcels,
like that buck we bought,

ice-hard, heavy,
remarkably clean. It pitched
an arctic station

in our freezer. We would never
eat it all,
though there were

often, there were
many times
the snow

led with conjunctions.
Sycamores let it
get on their nerves.

We watched
their breakdown
in the sky,

till all was white
on white on white.
I’ll never write

a poem to you again.
You know that is a promise
I can keep.

I leave it
to the snow to
and and and and and—



The cottonwood pollen is flying again,
Adrift like snow or ash. It lines
The curbs, it sticks to my lips
Like down to a fox’s muzzle.
I made a poem about it years ago.
We were new then. We’d set fire
To our old lives and made love day
And night, mouths full of each other.
Back then, we were a match
For June: arrogant, promising, feverish.
For as long as we live, summer returns
To us. And snow, ash, they too return.

Santa Caterina's Tomb
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

On her feast day, recumbent under
glass, St. Catherine was open
for business. We queued up to touch her
hand, that never learned to write,

a hand original
to her body, most of which rests
here, waxy fallen pillar
in a church built over
a temple, virgin on goddess.

Catherine’s head lies at home
in Siena. Her heart could be
in my breast pocket right now—
something’s dead in there.

Touching her reminded me of the match
stick we used for the votives;
of fava shells we piled together at table;
of our lips out of practice;
of the lily, her emblem;
and of the sycamore, which is mine.

Having painted the miracle of blood
sacrifice again and again, word
made flesh, angel
wings of gold and mica, Fra Angelico
rests nearby.
                     So you lay
beside me once, my body so often
a ruin beneath you. 


Kathy Fagan

Kathy Fagan’s forthcoming book is Sycamore (Milkweed Editions, March 2017). Her first collection, The Raft, won the National Poetry Series; her second, MOVING & ST RAGE, the Vassar Miller Poetry Prize. Recent work appears in The New Republic and Narrative. Director of the Creative Writing Program at Ohio State, Fagan serves as Series Editor of the OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Poetry Prize. Her website is

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2016