Poetry: Subtraction and the Body is No Scientist by Katharine Coles

Two poems by Katharine Coles from NDQ 80.4-82.4. She’s a featured speaker at this years University of North Dakota Writers Conference.

Subtraction
Katharine Coles

The black art of “borrowing” . . . is only a little more baroque than that of “carrying.”
Steven Stogatz, The New York Times

Hard to keep track. Easy to get in trouble. Take
One hand and give to the other, knuckling out
A pocket, snugging a rabbit
Or bauble back into a purse frogged And glitzed with plastic sequins. One way

You get from whole to half, from promise
To solution, by theft or loss. Drop nothing. Don’t
You miss me? Your burden bows your back
Then suddenly lifts. Honest, you only borrow

To stay positive, to keep yourself above
That horizon below which you mustn’t
Sink, though at some point you will

Lower yourself. Open your fingers
And give them a flutter, clever filchers, flighty

Little birds you can make light of.

The Body Is No Scientist
Katharine Coles

1. It wants to live or die without regard to medical evidence.

2. It takes its elixir or spits it out, craves touch and shies away.

3. It won’t examine reasons.

4. It loves the slick of butter on its tongue, will suck the marrow in until it pukes, stretches its skin out at noon, and stares at the sun until its sight blazes into dark.

5. Didn’t it fall in love with the boy packing his fingers around in a fist?

6. Didn’t it lick its wounds into raw meat, then forget?

7. My body runs itself to euphoria and beyond, will run until its knees fray and buckle and its muscles feed on themselves.

8. The clock ticks as if the body attended.

9. Oh, it’s petulant, and spoiled, and full of joy, a dumb, petted animal going grey.

10. Even drifting away from itself, lovely, it’s no philosopher.

11. It never could count.

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