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Kate Northrop

The Visitor

Down the hill, in the field of sweet alfalfa, they're
freezing each other, the children

playing tag and I'm up at the house, I'm
in the picture window, thin
and distant like the glimpse

of a surfacing fish. What dark waters
the house is, behind me, settling
into evening. Dusk

and there are, of course, fireflies. Tell me,
what was your name? When you visited once,

by the backroad where the stones glowed pale
in the moonlight, I was too young, I still thought
I belonged to the world. But now

quartered in this house, watching the neighbors' children
turn to dusk, I feel

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Hiding

—to my sister

Because the moon in late October made landmarks glow: the broken
gate, our yard

full of stones, the attic window

suddenly foreign, across its face
a blue dissolve. In spite of that, the farm

remained an arrangement (barn
behind the house, pond
across the road) and a girl sometimes

feels torn. We turned our dresses inside out,
ran into a grove. We played

you're blind, Molly, try to find me.
It was a family game: get left

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Late Aubade & Explanation

Once in a field, in a wide rising stretch of paintbrush
& purple vetch, we stuck down

a tent, like punctuation, and drank through the evening
our bottle of bad wine. When you looked up,
the weather was holding: a few breezes,

a full moon silvering the flowers

to white. In the distance, I heard the ache
& slide of snow, the beginning of crickets. It was twilight—

the landscape was lifting.

A mountain. The clouds, further up,
came down. A Book of Hours. A tent in which we twisted,
pressed each against the other, drunk

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Unfinished Landscape With A Dog

Not much of a dog yet,
that smudge in the distance, beyond the reach

of focus. It's just an impressionist
gesture, a guess. From the edge of the clearing, the farmhouse
materializes, settles

into wall & stone. The water,
making the surface

of the stream, makes
reflections. So why shouldn't the dog

accept limits, become

a figure? Is it like the girl who sits
in the hall closet and says she's not
hiding? She's inside—

listening without the burden

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Iowa & Other Accidents

There was snow that afternoon covering the road
which twisted toward the secret
of water, the mysterious surge

of sludge & loam, the living
Mississippi, unlike the rest of the Midwest,

drawing itself through landscape. There was an appointment
you were keeping

in Moline: a cheap hotel, booze, a little blow. On the Lower
East Side, a woman

spills her martini, makes a gesture
like erasure, or regret. It was almost Christmas.
In the rear view

suddenly, the car you will always describe as oncoming
must have slipped into a skid

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The Dead

Their reward is
they become innocent again,

and when they reappear in memory
death has completely erased
the blurs, given them boundaries. They rise

and move through their new world with clean,
clear edges. My grandmother, in particular
has become buoyant, unattached finally

from her histories, from the trappings
of family. By no means was she

a good woman. But the dead don't care anymore for that.
Weightless, they no longer assume
responsibility, they no longer

have bodies. Once,

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The Geranium

How can you stand it—looking at things?
For example, the geranium

out on the patio, the single pink
blossom in the sun? Or stand the sunlight
moving through it,

illuminating, holding the flower open like a high
clear note, an ecstatic
widening

which arrives, arrives. What
do you dowith it? While the shrubs and the lowest
overhanging leaves

lift slightly in the wind, the blossom

doesn't move. It's the object
of affection, and this is how
it hurts you:

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Affair With Various Endings

I. Kempton, Pennsylvania


Perhaps the last of the light
lifting this evening from the field of wheat

means something. Perhaps the view
includes us, and we are not errors
in the landscape

or meant to be erased. The painter, it's true,
prefers not to preserve
our figures in the brush

of hills layered into green. Perhaps he too
is careless with the truth. What lies

have you had to tell to land you here

outside Kempton, with the creek rising behind us?

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