Love Songs from the End of the World / Katherine Riegel


Love Songs from the End of the World

poems by

Katherine Riegel

ISBN: 978-1-59948-760-1, ~76 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: September 12, 2019


Katherine (Katie) Riegel is a poet, editor, and teacher who lives in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the author of Letters to Colin Firth, winner of the 2015 Sundress Publications chapbook award, and two previous full-length collections of poetry: What the Mouth Was Made For (FutureCycle, 2013), and Castaway (FutureCycle, 2010). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently edits the literary magazine Sweet Lit and teaches online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find out more at

Part love-letter, part lament for a morally and ecologically compromised world, Katie Riegel’s fine third collection begins by reassuring us that “we live as much in dreams as in the made rooms/with tile floors and airplanes.” Here, language is both curse and cure, the handmaiden of passion, that paradoxical human gift she wants “to both deny and utterly believe in.” This book is alive with sexual energy and droll humor. ~Enid Shomer, editor of the anthology ALL WE KNOW OF PLEASURE: Poetic Erotica by Women (John Blair/Carolina Wren Books, 2018).

This is precisely the book I needed at this moment. Both fantastical and grounded in nature, deeply hopeful and stark in its appraisal of a dying world, this collection is full of lines I will keep close. “Save your words for the next/ world. And give me this:// because of the frogs, I am willing/ to believe there might be one.” But Riegel’s words are here for us now, and for that I am grateful. ~Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

Katherine Riegel asks difficult questions of how we relate to our world and gives us a “way back to our // missing parts.” Elegiac and celebratory, these poems lean skillfully into quirky and powerful phrases that describe the inexplicable nature of life and death: “when the dark comes, / dream that we are dancing– / all animal grace and body joy.” There is no better way to name our connection with the world. ~Terry Ann Thaxton

Dear Future

We live as much in dreams as in the made rooms
with tile floors and airplanes. We dream

of flying in so many ways: as if we were birds,
our fingers turned to feathers; as if we had no

bodies; as if we were the wind, touching
everything. In some of our dreams we watch

ourselves walking through blue night forests
and we are afraid but also proud and also free.

In the forests at night, bears walk upright
and speak to each other, though not to us.

Humans with antlers and horses that glow
promise to show us the way back to our

missing parts, the dense globes we know
were carved out of us some time in childhood.

Some of us—the more hopeful ones?—believe
some day we may find ways to fill the spaces.

Perhaps our minds will separate at last
from our cumbersome bodies and moonlight

will no longer include mosquitoes, or people
with guns, or fear at all. Perhaps we will invent

ways to talk to everything in the universe, and wise
ancient organisms will share their secrets at last.

Some of us believe blood is magic, the only door
that opens onto a world we might want.

We are the sadder ones. We are convinced
all good things are gone and gone, locked away

in the past. Once, perhaps, whole people
lived under the sky, vast with stars and silence.

Then the first words came.




I never loved you,
bloated god-monster,
founded by Puritans who named themselves kings
of heaven and planted the myth
that everyone could be rich if only he worked hard
enough. In college my creepy history professor read
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to a class full
of young Midwesterners and I knew even then
it was the women, the children, the poor
who dangled over the flames. America

I never dreamt of you but of your parts:
my flatland home, the mountains my mother loved,
beach where I could look out and see only not-you.
Every country’s history is written in blood
but yours is boastful and too
close to me, the stink always on my skin.
I thought by now my white femaleness wouldn’t
matter, I was too idealistic I know, I actually thought
people wanted to be fair to one another.
America your hands

are too hard, you have metal blades
for teeth. Maybe you were an idea once
but now you are machine. Remember
humans live here, in our soft bodies.
America you are scaring me.



The Accidental Creator Apologizes

I’m sorry for the sun half-blinding as you drive west,
your fear of slamming into something
because you’re squinting so hard.
Yes, that was my fault. I asked for light.

I’m sorry for the flowers not lasting long enough
in their pretty vase. I wanted room for more flowers,
frilly frothing hillsides of them, throats full, arms full,
and because of that, not everything could live. I’m sorry

for distances. I’m sorry for sleep. I’m sorry for icicles
pulling at the gutters. I’m sorry about birth,
and for what they call growing pains,
that acrid ache in your legs when you were lying
in your twin bed at night. I’m sorry for vacations,
how they speed by like a train and leave you

standing in the same place. I’m sorry for the way you
cut yourself for love, thinking you need to feed it
on drops of blood the way rescued baby squirrels
are fed milk with eyedroppers. I’m sorry you’re afraid

of rage. I’m sorry you want someone
to hold you when you’re crying, the hard sounds
coming out of your mouth and your nose
dripping, but you can’t let anyone

see you that way. I’m sorry for memory’s faulty wiring,
rooms going dim just when you enter them,
others lit garishly and you can’t shut the door. I’m sorry
you feel responsible for everything. Most days

I’m not sure what I wished for that made things
turn out like this, I just know somehow it’s all my fault.

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