Katie Byrum

Claire Anna Baker "Anti-Shock" (Detail)

Claire Anna Baker "Anti-Shock" (Detail)

To the River House


It happened every night in pieces: you left me

talismans from the other side, dreamthings

with a sideways-sense that blurred

when I tried to back away. You were tethered in place,

sunk in the mud near a threadbare bench.

Your tired eaves. That yellow face whose windows

watched the river slap at the banks when the boats went by.


I was driving away from you, my eye

on the rearview. I watched your trees recede

into a green hum, your yellow behind me and behind me

till something gave like floodwater:

a long thread unraveling.

A feeling in the hands

like braiding hair.


Now I look at my life

with a seasonal madness,

frantic at what I left behind:

banana plants with brown edges

that curled like hair, old photographs

we pulled from the wall, those white squares

where the frames had been.


They love a night like this.

          Obliteration’s wild and quiet rush,

                     the star-blown snow

                               so beautiful it makes them stupid.

                                                                 —Paul Violi, “Buckaroo”



Amped up, off the clock but still

in uniform: slip-proof shoes that love

when a crack in the routine opens

and they find the night


dragging them by the hand,

pouring tequila shots they will drink

down an ice luge dusted with crushed-up

Doritos—a little sloshy now,


rushing out the door to chase frozen stillness

past Doppler voices, hectic plaid and taxi lights

so red and white insistent and slurry they shut their eyes

and tumble back into the star-blown snow


and lie there dwarfed into silence by cold and stars,

belly up to the sky and reaching

each for the other’s hand in a drunk and snowy dark

so beautiful it makes them stupid.


Katie Byrum was born and bred in Kentucky and now resides in Brooklyn. She writes poems by day and manages a bar in the city at night.


The poem “To the River House” comes from pieces of dreams, images that wash up on my head’s shore.

Tequila down a Cool Ranch Dorito-dusted ice luge is a real thing called a “dude ranch.”