Potash Hill

Your Battered Name

Poems by Kimberly Cloutier Green ’78

For the Young Woman I Pass on the Beach
From this distance, I see how you divide yourself—
one part alert to your child’s play close by,
the other part drifting thrum of surf, blue of sky=
You know without opening your eyes
that he’s reaching to touch the bright foam
spangling your ankles—
and even as you give him simple cool, soft
words for the pleasure in his hands
a part of you strays—
the way everything strays
in this quick breeze and white shine—
sailboats into sunlit spray
gulls through clouds that range and fade
beyond the wide stretch of beach between us.
I want to stop on my walk—not for your rapt boy
burying and unburying your feet in sand—
but for you, dreaming one, leaning back on your arms
and tilting your faraway face to the sun,
to sit with that part of you that’s loose, adrift, no more than a girl,
full of sighs and too warm in her shorts and tee
flicking quartz and mica dust from her thighs,
and listen to what you’d whisper to me then
of happiness, the far-off tow of children calling
nothing to you yet.

Your Battered Name
What is it that breathes fire into the equations and
makes a universe for them to describe?
— Stephen Hawking

I want it back
strange, untamed
as the ratios that keep
planets circling stars
unexplained as forces
deep down and subtle
weak and strong
weird as the first
gape-mouthed word—Your name
when I need it, as now,
unsure how far a voice reaches
uncertain whether it matters, my cry
in all your dark breathing, quark body, strings
for this life I am—O, God—awake in

Burying the Old Cat
Into the little grave, a bit of food,
drops of water from his bowl, what remains
of the catnip, and a few narcissi blossoms.
Last to go in, a poem by Franz Wright—
In life, death
was nothing to you…
How easily we slip into the ancient rites,
digging in silence by the shed out back
and lining the hole with ferns,
tucking around his curled form
the things he’ll need for the journey—sustenance, yes,
and gifts from this world for those who might
receive him in the next. Faithful consecrations,
and hope like this accretes with every death—
for ease, pray, in darkness, and then perhaps
a dory, its smooth crossing on a sacred river
to the banks he’ll step, lightly, out upon.
Putting him down we call it, the terrible
ordeal over in moments, sparest breath, his strangely lithe
body seeming too slight, too small, to have lived so long
a witness to all our confusions of course and meaning—
three houses, two daughters grown and gone.
the vows we’ve tried to live into—how large he seemed,
watching us, our every uncertain move.

Kimberly Cloutier Green is a poet, collaborating artist, and teacher living in Kittery Point, Maine. She is a firstplace prizewinner in a number of competitions, including  the Aldrich Poetry Prize  (2001), and her poems have been published in several literary journals, including Mid-American Review, The Café Review, The Comstock Review, Presence, Vineyards, and The Anthology  of New England  Writers. Her first book of poetry, The Next Hunger, was published by Bauhan in April (ISBN: 978-0-87233- 162-4).