Laura Kasischke

My First Mistress


My first mistress was a mirror.

She was thin as winter, and an heiress.

When I smiled at her, she smiled, and when


I grimaced, she grimaced.  And when

I cried, she turned my tears to silvered

strangers in the distance. 


My shining party dress inside her. 

My staggering drunkenness. 


And when I slipped on a new pair of shoes

and fell down wearing them.  Black-

eyed, and rising up again.  And when


they took off my breasts:  Then

she became the surface without expression

that let me stare, and never said, “What


do you think you’re staring at in there?” 


Instead, she polished

my face softly with a cloth, and when


I screamed at her that I was dying, and when

I turned my back on her while she was crying


she just

reminded me, quietly, to please

turn off the light.

              Blue Flower | Delores Peffley

              Blue Flower | Delores Peffley

Night Cry


I never saw the bird that perched there on my nerve, and screamed, and

woke me from a dream so thick and sweet that, even in the dream, I

found that I was eating it off

the floor with a rag, like

clotted cream.


Jesus.  What kind of bird was this?  It wasn’t even close to dawn.  The night

was all lit up with all its dust on fire, and then, my God, that cry: 

Again!  And I 


went to the window to find only the moon out there, appearing

undignified, as if she, too, had just

awakened, blinking

in the sky.  Both 


of us naked, startled, bald, confused, and disgusted with the other’s

unflattering surprise.  Did you


think you were going to be able to keep forever, as if it mattered, you fool?

Pandora’s Cellar


Who canned her summer peaches

in her own tears.  Fruit


made of daylight, and then


shelved it in a cellar for thirty years.


We found those jars along with all

the other things she’d hidden—

in yellowed dresses—

after she was dead.  Distant

thunder in the morning

followed by a downpour. 

The lights went out.

They came back on again.


“Dear God,” my mother said, turning

to find me with a Mason jar


flashing in my hands.  “Do

not take the lid off that thing, Laura.”


But, I did.  Of course.  I had.



LAURA KASISCHKE has published nine collections of poetrymost recently The Infinitesimals. For her book, Space, In Chains, she received the National Book Critics Circle Award.  She has also published eight novels. She teaches at the University of Michigan.