small textlarge text

Katharine Diehl

Putting on Mourning for Aelis

Why bury her holding elk antlers and wearing soft furs?
Why bathe her bones in milk and place her in a jar?
Why break her flesh and ground her into little cakes
And bake them for the vultures and spread them with butter?
Why inter her dust in a vessel or arrange her in fire?

Something bound with her hemoglobin.
Something made her liver crush her interior.
Something made her womb drop out between her parted legs.
Something makes me bury my face in the linens she folded,
The linens she crushed flies between without thinking.

If you think it is likely Aelis would throw herself on my pyre
I can say it is not likely. If you think it is likely I would do the same
I tell you I would do so. If you think each morning and evening
I'd bury her I tell you there are more burials in her.
I'd lie down on her pyre or in the earth with her.

The Suicides

Those remaining waited the winter
in their furs, in the forest. They refused
to spare the wood to heat water for a bath,
or cold deferred the action.

Even the good-looking men attempted it.
There wasn't a man left in the city, at a certain
point, that hadn't tried for it. After a while they
counted as endangered. The government
tried certain initiatives, giving them dogs,

for example, or giving them women. The women
hoped the initiatives would fall through
from lack of funding. That they would stay
in the woods, and alone.

Whaler's Wife

Somewhere you are brown and strong, sucking on limes,
keel-hauling black weeds out of the water,

hunting the white-belly demons like those undying
wyrms of bad tales.

Be glad you are spared our plague.
The sheep have been dropping where they feed.


The last whale in the world is a pale comma
in the whale-mother's womb.

I know the whales bear live young. Soon it will be born,
it will be hunted for oil. I worry for its tender length

and the harpoon in it.


Something coils a black serpent in my gut-
it threatens to burst in me.

The quarantine holds.

➥ Bio