The Poem I Am Trying to Write
by Kara Knickerbocker
born on a napkin in Hathaway’s Diner, baptized with black coffee,
it crawls slowly across hotel paper on a cold Cincinnati morning,
then gathers strength on a Greyhound bus, northbound for another city I’ve already forgotten.
It’s getting restless in the window seat, looking out at cornfields stretching route 71.
And I’m carrying this poem in my arms, cautiously like I would a newborn child
across white dotted lines, moonless nights and into another state.
But the poem starts crying and I’m trying to figure out what it needs
putting the pen to hungry paper like a bottle and now it is screaming
a silenced white so I’m suffocating it against my breast, in my zipped jacket.
I’m holding this poem like my breath in folded prayer in a church pew next to my parents and I’m spoon feeding it with all the words I know and don’t know.
Say something or shut up! I want to scream at the poem,
but it’s no use so I swallow the poem whole until it kicks angrily against my belly
until I deliver it again. This time the poem doesn’t crawl, or cry, but it blinks and it stands.
And it turns and walks away from me.
* * * * *
Kara Knickerbocker is a poet and writer from Pennsylvania and the author of The Shedding Before the Swell (Dancing Girl Press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her most recent poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in print and online publications including: Cabildo Quarterly, The Laurel Review, and the anthology Voices from the Attic Vol XXII. She lives in Pittsburgh where she works at Carnegie Mellon University, writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curates the MadFridays Reading Series.