Stenographer's Steps

I led the accused out from a wing onto the field of inquiry. because it was my first time I forgot the proper footing. the accused comforted me, saying, “ahh, but you never.”

when I recited the allegory of the potsticker then asked the accused to supply meat, it was as if something had fallen in. a sole from the foot of a hanged woman. ceremoniously, we wet our mouths with citrus. the judge looked on, then signaled my adequacy.

I took my seat among jurors.

a small woman urged me to confess. I sat at the corner. a man who was sick wanted me to relieve his bowels. it was not my turn to nurse.

we were some of us left in the dark to show others the way back.

the judge’s behaviors were scandalous. the batting of eyelashes and adjusting of handicaps. the getting low on great knees. the most travestied material wrung out and reapplied with lard.

up in the balcony, we played solitaire in our woolens. the fires were elsewhere. divorced from certain tenets of enlightenment, we could recognize no moral disorders. most of us didn’t care to try the accused, but that wouldn’t stand during sentencing.

during sentencing we’d have to invent a new horror to accompany each stricken, each damage, each unknowing decency.

I was elected foreman as I’d been named jailor, court reporter. the rest averted their good eye. I had been absent during the accused’s childhood. I eventually failed to evade the consequences.

currently, the other jurors wanted nothing more than to be told. it was a large and severe want.

the judge left instructions. footprints in the conference room were set in a viennese waltz. we took turns counting each other out in threes. each time, someone had to keep time while others were made to touch. most did what they could dully.

when reminded of gravity and of our homes, we collapsed one by one into a single volume. we walked out like children who have cheated or been caught in each other’s underclothes. I thought very hard about small, about seeds and pits and pollen. I listened for an oboe.

after it was done, I was not there.

after it was done, the accused pale clay on a metal field, it was done. it went as expected: priest, needles, death-rattle, curtain. I drove slowly away in the leftover quiet planning a soup.


Marriage (2)

The boy loves trucks. His is a world of Vrrum. I am most comfortable sitting behind the tall grass wondering if the lions are going to eat my mother. The boy gestures. Come closer, he says. Come closer to the big wheels. Of everything, he likes the grill most. His fingers talk open the buttons of my dress. I am more and more willing to unpack the steam trunk where nothing is left but mosquito netting for a blouse. I will not. Instead, there are the insects to feed. For years, I am comprised of a series of small raised white welts. He has come to want something he can take down with his rifle, and like a young god, fling across the slatted floor of the truck bed. During the same period, I have shrunk to the size of a petri dish.

Kirsten Kaschock’s first book of poetry, Unfathoms, is available from Slope Editions. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Georgia. Kirsten holds MFAs in Choreography from the University of Iowa and in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Barrow Street, Denver Quarterly, Diagram, Iowa Review, La Petite Zine, Octopus, Pleiades, Slope, Volt, and other fine publications.

Kirsten Kaschock