The Landscapes of our Bodies by Julia Klatt Singer

The Landscapes of our Bodies

Green covers anything stone sky or dirt it can take hold of. Only the clear water moves quick enough to keep it from taking root in it too—although from here, from the bridge, we see the greens reflected in it, swimming swiftly down to the bend—a curve like a woman’s hip—and another that takes it out of our view. I remember standing near my mother, how she’d talk and laugh, laugh and talk, and how the material of her skirt, cool and cotton, beckoned me to slip under. Standing with her legs, I felt like I’d enter a forest world all my own. How old was I? One and a half? Two? It hadn’t been that long since I’d left the world of her body. You tell me this is your landscape, this oak and grass and wildflower dotted rolling hill terrain. Black raspberries. Sumac. Mullen. Thistle. Ash. Somewhere a stream that leads to a river that leads to a bigger river that leads to a sea. Somewhere toads hatch and crayfish hunt. You pluck a black walnut, hold its hard green body to my nose. It smells astringent, like something my mother used to clean. I remember the smell of her blood. How she left a pool of it on the kitchen floor. Even after it’s been cleaned up, I picture the thin line, like the outline of a new continent, on the parquet floor. I lean against the iron railing, I lean against you. You smell like wood, something hard and true. Its been thirteen years and still it feels so new. I remember her favorite color was green.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The imagery in this prose poem slowly creates an emotional landscape that starts with the world outside, and ends with the indelible ties that bind us together within ourselves.

Soul of a Man by Julia Klatt Singer

Soul of a Man

His was made of hollows and solitude
and any kind of liquid
that could fill it; water first,
the shadowy depths
fish and desire hid in,
whiskey later, eventually
what was left of the light.
The one that sparked
and reformed metal.
I loved the word foundry
even if the smell of it
on his clothes
reminded me of the tang
of blood, and something
else that I couldn’t get
my hands on. Like the coins
in his Mason jar, the one
he’d tell me to stick my hand in
take as many as I could.
It isn’t about how much you
take, just knowing
what your hands are capable of,
knowing how much
you can hold.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: This poem arrives at its subject obliquely, allowing the reader to slowly absorb the message promised by the title along the way.

Reading our fortune in the patterns of frost by Julia Klatt Singer

Reading our fortune in the patterns of frost

How swirling the sky. How tumbling the stars
frozen in time, in place, angling towards
some soft landing, clear and bright.

Sure the mountains are jagged and tall, tipping
towards the sun. Sure the pines are lonely, perched
there, edging towards abandon. A moment

of sunlight and it’s as if they never existed at all.
But we know. We’ve seen the stars fall.
We’ve been to the mountaintop.

We’ve stood at the edge, gave in
to abandon. And we’d do it
again. And we do it


by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem demands that the reader feel what is seen, because it is both important and human to give in to the bit of vertigo that some beauty demands.

Scent Memories by Julia Klatt Singer

Scent Memories

After the storm
We dragged the fallen limbs
(Maple, multiple)
To the side of the house
And built a fort
A living, green, branch
And leaf fort. Each tear
Fresh, the limb underneath
Like bone, the skin peeling
Away; sweet and nutty.
How those leaves
Shook. How the light scissored
Through, tattooing my body.
In their dying, so much life
To breathe in, until each leaf
Turned brittle, dull. Until
The limbs paled
Turned to ghosts.

Lemon Pledge polish and old linoleum,
vinegar clean.

Anything that could be, pressed and steamed.

Hot creamy and vanilla, the tapioca pudding
with its dead-eyed stare
was a sensual shock.

Encyclopedias and cloth dolls
my world
in hers.

The scent of sun
in the bedsheets, the only
scent familiar, like home.

Woodsmoke and wildflowers
Sun-baked rocks. Despite all the water
The dry scent—as if the air could combust
Burn itself into a fine ash, silver like the dimes
In my grandfather’s fist.

Fish, fish made of water,
Water. Falling and lapping against
the side of the aluminum boat. The tang
of aluminum; a taste and a sound and a texture
against my skin. Even the fishing line
becomes the scent of waiting
to unfurl.

The image of me now, three years old
Squatting near the pump, the stringer of fish
Laid out, above each fish a dandelion I had picked.
I had learned early to attend to the dying
With what I had; my hands, with what I could pick,
brilliant small suns.

I bring the dog-eared recipe card
To my nose. Smell in the faded ink
And soft paper: flour, something bitter,
Then her hands. This is how her death
Becomes a daily thing. So ordinary
It rises like bread.

Before and after
The air laden
With the sweet hint
Of it.
Something coming

In its falling
More than a smell,
Like coming

Yours will always be laced with water; a tall glass of it
The ice catching the light.

Hip-waders and tackle box by the cabin door.

Even the fish you caught were mostly stream and sunlight.

You were the arms that kept me from drowning.

You liked your lakes so big you couldn’t see to the other side.

You like your rains hard.

You were like my thirst, unquenchable.

Like a river, I could not keep you from leaving.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The thing about memory and grief is that even if the mind can forget, the body does not. The imagery in this poem is drenched in this knowledge, and the closing line lingers like a snapped fishing line, caught in the current.

Nothing but flowers by Julia Klatt Singer

Nothing but flowers

I have never been so cold
nor has Chicago.
For weeks the wind has blown off the lake
turning the sub-zero temperatures
into two-digit numbers
too high to count on my stone cold fingers.
Cold that thickens as the night swallows
the short sunlit days.
The buses have stopped running
so I walk the two miles home after teaching
my English class to a handful
of immigrants who don’t even know
the words for this kind of cold.
I teach them scarf, mittens, hat.
I give them my extras. We cross our arms
in front of our chests and say brrrrr.
I go see David Byrne’s Stop Making Sense
in a movie theater as cold as the world is
outside. I stand in the dark theater
dancing, my feet feel miles away, or maybe
that is what they are wishing to be, somewhere
else, like your single bed, our bodies’ heat, as little
of it as we have, trying to save each other.
I am not your beautiful wife, this is not your
beautiful house, but still
we dream of nothing but flowers.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The careful enjambment of this poem focuses the attention on key words, making the emotional rush of the latter part of the poem all the more intense.

Let’s name this afternoon after a Miles Davis song by Julia Klatt Singer

Let’s name this afternoon after a Miles Davis song

Let’s read your tea leaves.
Read them in a language we don’t know—
Persian or Hungarian—even if the tea
is from India and you are drinking it
out of a cup from Sweden.

The one my grandmother gave me
when I moved into my first apartment.
Before I knew you. Before I knew me too.

Your leaves are lush, dappled in sunlight.
Your leaves sing the rhythm of the rain.
Your leaves are shaped like a continent
or a birthmark—and the sheen
of a beloved cello.

I rub my finger
along the cup’s rim, hum
with them.

Let’s read them like braille
with our hands. Let’s read them out loud,
till we can’t help but notice
the sky is drenched
in some kind of blue.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The title of this poem provides a wonderful framework on which the imagery of the narrative can riff, allowing just enough emotional space to sing.

There is time to grow old by Julia Klatt Singer

There is time to grow old
For Harold

There is time to grow old. And we take it. Walk gently through the world; today made over with new falling snow. Everyone needs a partner, and you say I want to be yours. You tell me you love birds. How they sing and make a bush sing too. You tell me about Martha, your cat, who got too old and died. Let’s not get too old you say. Let’s not. You tell me you love snow, catching it on your tongue. You tell me you love winter because it lets us walk on water, lets us become angels. We hold hands. Even through our mittens, we feel the warmth of each other’s palm. We walk side by side, into the snow, into the world transforming.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The gentle repetition in this poem soothes the reader as the idea of love and hope and a “world transforming” slowly grows possible.

Intimacies, Number 18 by Julia Klatt Singer

Intimacies, Number 18

We set off into the woods,
never a glance back.
Nothing in our pockets
but the stones and pinecones
we find along the way—
the occasional treasure
of bone and eggshell, moss
and feather. We knew the story
of Hansel and Gretel.
The old woman’s house—
much like our grandmother’s
we’ve just left
for these woods.
Deeper in until the sunlight
struggles to find us.
Deeper in until the sound
of the dead trees we’ve kicked down
fall silent. Deeper in
until neither of us knows
how long or how far
we’ve gone. The hunger
in our bellies, the light
now slant, we turn
let the panic quicken
our pace. Let the trees
usher us out.
They never scold us.
Lay us a path
of leaves and twigs
roots and soft needles.
Lead us to the sounds
of the road, the short walk
back, the smoke from the chimney
reaching like a long arm, fingers beckoning.
Entering the house (how contained it feels)
we smell like trees, like air;
cool and free and endless.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: This narrative poem deftly captures both the folly and risk of youth, and the delicious freedom of it, leaving the reader yearning for more at the end.

Reasons to Run by Julia Klatt Singer

Reasons to Run

In the east a planet hangs low in the sky,
A silver apple ready to be plucked.

Last week it was robins. This week
Squirrels—how long since I’ve seen a rabbit?

The lake mirrors the slate blue sky.

And what do I mirror?

Am heartbeat, am steady, am certain
That no one can see me now

Dancing as I run to Aretha
Like the sweet morning dew

I took one look at you,
And it was plain to see

you were my destiny… you, still
and asleep and dreaming; fleet foxes,

a star in your mouth, moonlight
in your bed.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The surreal imagery in this poem beautifully mirrors the way the mind wanders while running, while also allowing the reader a glimpse into the life of the speaker.

The blue and temperate world by Julia Klatt Singer

The blue and temperate world

We live in the marginalia;
every day further from the center of things, more of a scribbled note,
a smudge, worn and soft as graphite.

I watch as the goldfinches,
he and she, back and hungry, visit the feeder three times over lunch.

The wind chimes now hang from a branch of the Elm,
some industrious squirrel stole from the porch and positioned there.

Running, in the early morning, the rabbits look at me like the interloper that I am.
I whisper don’t move, I’m already gone.

I am trying to learn Finnish. Tarjosi, tanaan—to offer, today.

And like yesterday and tomorrow all I have for you
is this poem,

that I plant your body in,
like the sky is a garden
made of stars.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The narrative of this poem is bookended between two brilliant images, forcing the reader to grapple with the idea that reality is mostly created (and often startling).