ISBN: 978-1-59948-713-7, ~80 pages, $14 (+ shipping)
Projected Release Date: January 2019
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About The Author
Katie Kalisz is a Professor in the English department at Grand Rapids Community College, where she teaches composition and creative writing. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Loyola University of Chicago, and Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their three children.
In Quiet Woman, the voices are anything but. The subject is child, wife, mother, widow, grandmother -- the watching and the watched, by each other, strangers, God, as they “swallow” babies and life “whole,” attempting to bridge chasms between life and death. Kalisz’s poems are eggs “protected and refined,” precariously occupying the “vast landscape between hatched and cracked.” Readers are left speculating, as one speaker does, “Do we all carry tombs inside our bellies?” ~Deirdre Fagan
In one of these stunningly crafted poems of reverence to humanity, painful realities and joyful renewals, Katie Kalisz shows us how “We separate our clasped hands in order to open/our separate doors.” These are poems of tremendous empathy and observation. From selling on Craig’s List to a woman giving birth in Morocco, to finding a gift for a Vegan brother, Quiet Woman reminds us of life’s extraordinary contradictions and “How effortless love can sometimes seem.” ~Joy Gaines-Friedler, author of Capture Theory
Pregnant at a Funeral
While glassy-eyed attendants stretched
in rhythmic lines past his taut mother
in the front pew, I tried to imagine
the nearly grown child inside of me
dying before I did. Soft jabs
to the tender skin beneath my ribcage
assured me of some faceless life and heartbeat
still beating, for the moment listening
to sobs and sighs. I quietly pictured
your possible names on a gray headstone,
on a folded memorial program, on a kiosk
with directions to the funeral luncheon
in your honor. Undecided, I followed
the mass of visitors into the church basement,
lined up for single slice ham sandwiches
on damp white buns, three versions of potato salad,
too red punch or weak coffee. I made small talk
while you ate away at what I could give you
now, this small pause before death
starts chasing you back here.
Apology to My Daughter, Ahead of Time
When you arrived late as a package prodded
across a wide country, dropped into foreign hands
without a stamp of approval, of entry, I did not know
what to do, how. Where was the border crossing, and who
permitted me entrance, or was it exit?
But this is an apology. I did not know
that when you arrived, I would be dumb and awkward,
again a learner of sound, breath, senses beyond the tips
of my fingers. I did not know.
I am sorry that when you cry, I finally know how to stop you,
but I have to stop myself instead. I did not know
I would have to teach you this:
how not to need me.
Grandma Mary Only Read Prayer Cards She Already Knew by Heart
I wore a red skirt to her funeral, and in it
read a poem my mother chose to make others
feel still, chanted the rosary to the chickens
across the river, swept the floor to see the sand
it collected, tolerated better how cold the stoop was
in February, how dead the flowerbed. I scorned
babies and birds at the feeder, baseball games, balloons
tied onto car antennae at dealerships. I took count:
dresses left in the small closet (17), letters in her name (14).
One night after a dinner of thin soup, I hand-washed
the dishes, then transplanted her umbrella plant
to a larger pot, moved it onto the deck for some sun,
whispered her name as a question. Sometimes, I still
try on the dress with blue polka-dots, its frayed belt pulling
taut across my soft belly, a small hole that enlarges.
“Self-awareness is a liability.” –Seth Grossman
Last night I dreamt technical dreams.
All my toes scrubbed clean
of any old polish, exact mealtimes
during my subconscious
feedings, tape measures
next to “love”, “mothering,” “being
a Catholic.” A flashing neon OPEN sign
at the zoo. I knew my blood type,
all of my cholesterol numbers, the pressure
of air in my car and bike tires. The pain
of details pleased my sense of what is
This morning, awake, I revert
to generalities on a list of to-dos.
Grocery shop: TP, OJ, PB. Other
acronyms. Plan a vacation: NC.
SC. FL. Somewhere it’s warm then.
Or now. Either. It depends. It’s up to
you. I like both. Or either.
I travel with the masses
on the main road into work,
following an old dream
(which already came true).
But dreams die from rehearsal;
there is no remedy. There never
will be. My dream is now a relic
from a former time.
It’s easier checking the box
that says “I agree,” moving on
into the middle of life with fewer
ruins in my rucksack.