Liza Katz

Still Life and Ink


Let the outside shake you
               with its squalid sidewalks,

brazen sinkholes. Let concrete diamonds
               blink at you from snowbound streams.

Close your hands over your cup,
               squint through the plume of steam

into the sky’s vermilion cloak.
               Let the wind burn your face and stir

a tiny teacup storm. Don’t close the window.
               Let the porcelain chip and sliver.

Let rivulets of tea lacquer the table.
               Leave the stove on. Let

the bloated kettle groan. It will
               punish you: you will wake

in the dark, douse the flame,
               scorch your eyes. Leave the window

down as the smoke draws
               shadow pictures in its wake.


Words have flailed you, wet and sharp
               as a bulrush. Your legs,

two reeds, shake their fury
               when touched, as books

neglected overlong on shelves shake
               their dandelion clouds, plant dust weeds

in unscrubbed corners. In the basin
               of pent-up words you’re forearm-deep.

You collage a handmade paper pulp of leaves
               and choke, cough on the fibers

of words while grains of ink
               dance on their fringes.

Each corrugated fold swallows
               the last. White spaces gape, vaselike.

Seeds of print pullulate in the whir
               and cut of the ceiling fan. Panic will erase

everything you are about to do: a trail
               of erasures, the tracing paper torn through.

LIZA KATZ is a poet, critic, and ESL teacher. Her poems and criticism have appeared in Poet Lore, Omniverse, Clarion, The Critical Flame, Quarterly Conversation, and Open Letters Monthly.