Flight Patterns


poems by

Karla Huston

Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, $7 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-93090-736-2

Released: 2003

Winner of the 2003 MSR Chapbook Contest

Karla Huston lives and writes and in the Appleton, Wisconsin. She is the author of two previous chapbooks of poetry: A Halo of Watchful Eyes (Wolf Angel Press, 1997) and Pencil Test (Cassandra Press, 2002). She has published poetry, reviews and non-fiction in several state and national journals including Cimarron Review, 5 A.M., One Trick Pony, North American Review, Rattle, Sea Change. Her writing has earned the Wisconsin Regional Writer’s Association Jade Ring award for poetry as well as for fiction. She was awarded residencies at Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, in both 1998 and 2002. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and recently earned her MA in English from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Karla Huston has a knack for the perfect-pitched narrative, the delicious revelation of a storyline in verse. In Flight Patterns, the heartbreak of mature and adolescent love, domestic dramas, and issues of the body stun the reader with both their universality and their particular passions. Huston wrestles with all the “what ifs” and her poems put life in a headlock at every turn. A vividly luscious debut.

— Denise Duhamel

Reviewed by M. C. Bruce in Babel Magazine


Four mourning doves huddle atop Hemingway,
a five by five litho hung high in the commons.
Someone let them in, a senior prank, a tradition,
the kids said. The birds wait captive and afraid,

sitting on Papa’s head to roost and bobble,
Sometimes one flies down the hall, helter skelter,
too close to the talking heads below.
Another searches for light through windows,

finds only the trick of glass. Kids below
hurl shoes, empty soda bottles, anything
to scare up some action. The birds oblige,
flying down and into the hall, screaming

mercy mercy have mercy.
Hemingway stares, his cap cocked, while he considers
every word. He knows about farewells
to arms, hills filled with white elephants, how the sky

can become a cacophony of bells.
This place is filled with killers, he seems to say
and later, the birds will be shot while blood
and feathers fall like the last day on earth.

The virgins on the rocks were never
unhappy, yet you painted them twice.
At least the twelve apostles could

gnaw meat off bones while they lingered
or leaned into a bit of gossip
or fingered silver coins. Today

you want my hands folded just this way.
Chiaroscuro, you call it,
a new way of seeing, but oh,

I am tired, wait like an unanswered
prayer or an angel condemned
to kneel forever, while you study

the slant of light and adjust shadows
with a thumb. Today it’s your hair
that has me worried, flying out from

your head, your beard a silver nest
for insects and stray bits of food.
And Leonardo, you have such nasty

habits: belching after every meal,
farting when you bend for a rag,
or scratching your balls and peeing

from the balcony into the lilies
below. Now you could use a bath
and those nails clipped, but once

you might have been handsome.
Maybe then you’d have painted me
younger, crowned with roses, my fingers
full of gold rings. Why not ask me
about the scar on my arm or my crooked
little finger? Will anyone remember

the smoky haze around my face,
the subtle shift of light and dark,
see how much it hurt to smile?


I thought I saw my mother
on television, her hair
cut in a swingy pageboy,
mouth chiseled with dark lipstick.
She was manicured and pointing,
hands sweeping across a map
of the Midwest, isobars
clinging to the back of her arms
like spider webs. She’d just quit
her stint as housewife, shrugged off
forty years as martyr and ended
her long term relationship
with dust and elbow macaroni.
Stunned, I tried to change the channel,
to relentless morning
news or a clearance sale on Egyptian
jewelry, watch an infomercial
hawking salvation through better skin.
But I kept coming back, surprised
to see how satisfied she was,
how well she controlled someone
else’s day, pleased to advise
people in Tomah to wear their raincoats,
adding that those in La Crosse could
leave their umbrellas at home.

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