Questions About the Ride / Kristin Laurel


Questions About the Ride

poems by

Kristin Laurel

ISBN: 978-1-59948-735-9, 84 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

 Release Date:  May 28, 2019


Kristin Laurel has been a nurse for nearly thirty years. Much of her writing explores the complexities of human experience in the raw. She owes her passion for poetry to The Loft Literary Center, where she completed a two-year apprenticeship. Her first book, Giving Them All Away, won the Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. Publications can be seen in CALYX, Chautauqua, Gravel, among others, and her poetry was recently featured on NPR. She and her spouse live in Waconia, MN and Asheville, NC. She is the mother of three twenty-something adults, two middle-aged dogs, and an old, mysterious cat

Kristin Laurel has written a great book. Lines from D.H. Lawrence hover over the collection as epigraph. Stock, a brilliant lyric, sets the vision and tone for each poem that follows. Horrendous loss, grief, angels present and absent, the death of two beautiful boys, the love inside a family—this book is complete. A real poet takes grief, sorrow, fury, the struggle for acceptance, and makes indelible poems. We readers are heartbroken, inspired. ~Deborah Keenan, author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems, and nine other collections.

“What do you do to survive?” asks Kristin Laurel in the opening poem of her new collection. The answer? Write poems that refuse to flinch in the face of almost unimaginable trauma and loss; poems rich with stunning images, with epiphanies and questions that find home in the marrow and travel with us. Here, in action, is the afterlife that poetry creates for the dead. Questions About The Ride is beautiful, harrowing, and necessary. ~Jude Nutter, author of I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman and three other collections.

We all need this book! Why? Human suffering makes faith impossible, but only faith is big enough to hold human suffering. Smack in the middle of this paradox sits Laurel, wracked with grief, floored by beauty, and having a boat-load of fun. Joining her in that leaky boat, I’m convinced, is the only way forward. ~Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, author of Living Revision and Writing the Sacred Journey


Here is the marrow,
here is the bone.
Here is the froth that rose to the top as it boiled
over and stained the stove.

I added a figurine, a broken toy angel
who was missing a piece of her head.
I found her praying in a landfill, buried
next to some old tires, black trash bags
and the smell of rot.
This is where God lives, said a rat.
Up here, too, said the white seagulls flying all around.

This, is my offering:
Take a drink if you will, and then tell me, please,
What do you do to survive?



My Sister’s Dream

In the dark theater of grief,
her dreams project images of light

on the big screen. She is watching
an old familiar movie

when her son comes in to sit beside her
and she starts to cry,

Dylan, where have you been?

She is happy, and he is happy
and it’s mother and son at the movies.

But, before it’s over, he gets up,
I have to go now, he says, finish the movie without me.

When she wakes,
she is stuck in the theater chair

at the end of the driveway.
Across the road is a freeway

where everything else keeps

It’s all an illusion, you know:
movie, dream, what is real,

what is metaphor. Even the dream
is not hers.



Your Ghost

Dylan, your cousins have returned to school
and there’s a vacant seat in a crowded classroom
waiting for you to come in.

There’s a full tank of gas in your mini-bike,
your saddled horse tied to a barn,
car keys on a hook, and your parents at work.

All summer long, I hear the buzzing of cicadas.

There’s been a cricket in my bedroom
chirping at night, for months.

I have yet to find him.

This past Fourth of July we camped in the Carolina mountaintops.
Somewhere over by Stinky Creek Road and Pigtail Holler
I saw a handmade sign, Caskets For Sale.

Dylan, do you find that funny?

At night, in our tents, everyone could sleep
but me. And countless katydids. I tell you there is no sound like
katydids, rubbing their green-leafed wings.
The droning, the humming:
as if they were provoked, possessed.
I tried ear plugs, but those

busy bugs kept buzzing,
knocking and banging inside my skull.
I tried to write a poem to get them all

out, asked, What rhymes with katydid? Pyramid? Giant squid?
Katydid katydid katy did what? And I imagined

you — sitting on the highest branch, laughing,
your slingshot emptied.

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