Dana Koster

Two poems from Dana Koster’s Binary Stars
followed by a note on the author

Binary Stars


In the moment of upsuck, quiet eye
of the storm that was your mouth
gawping open
in another
endless howl
I thought every tender part of me
had broken. Replaced with
something wild
that even then
would not let me
set you down.

Westley. I speak your name here
so you will know me
in your first months:
shade of myself. Flickering
in and out of view.

I didn’t want a daughter, only
a son. I could never wish this on you.


A flurry of red hairs
pooled in the drain –
what remained
of my loveliness
sloughing off,
a death knell.

It was not
the first time
my hair fell
free of me.
For years after
your grandmother died
I pulled it out.

When you were
four weeks old,
I cried in a salon.
Told the hairdresser:
cut it all off.


At 11:53 that horrible nurse
dumped you on my chest.
Westley, my firstborn boy,
I saw
I’d given birth
to a small stranger.

A stocky thing
with my eyes,
blue-tinged and mewling.

I could feel all the anger
go into me, could calmly
flay a man
for not supporting your head.


I was selfish. I wished you to look
like Justin:
a thatch
of dark hair,
mole under
black lashes.

Or my mother, thin-
lipped and slim, blonde
tendrils of her
born back.

But the features you drew from me
were all my father:
elfin ears that stick out
at the tip, double-cowlick,
even the twice-jointed thumbs
that scared us at first.
My father, who never called:
you wore him like a curse.
Even your eyes
are really his
staring strangely,
a mirror within a mirror
spiraling through history.


There were times I was primordial, barely
lifting us two from the slime, the muck,
tripping from couch to kitchen
and back.Trapped
and hopeless,
suction tubes to my breasts.

Human, animal, extraterrestrial –
how does any life exist?
How have any mothers
done this
before me?
Love is something you and I
have stumbled on, Westley.
A disease that needed time
to gestate. We just are.
Impossibly loud, skin
to skin – binary stars.

The Wolf at the Door

Your father says you’ve all got a bit of the werewolf
in you and continues shoveling. He drawls the word werewolf

until I swear I see it arc out from his lips – or else
the heat is playing tricks on me. Turning pumpkin seeds to wolf’s

teeth. Sweat curls the hairs on your neck as you rupture the earth
beside him, ignoring our conversation, the lone wolf,

as always. I try to see the beast rippling beneath the skin
of this old man, but the wrong celestial body bears down on us. Wolves

need moonlight like these rows need water. Like your father needs to
disappear from the house. And before, I never thought werewolf

when he would irrigate at dusk, but now the image of his pelt
reflected in those flooded fields comes unbidden. The wolf

in him calling to coyotes in the distance, flaring with
the temper you remember from childhood, when the wolf

could hardly be kept from the door. But your own temper comes only
as a snarl and you turn away from me – docile as you ever were.

Dana Koster has earned degrees from University of California Berkeley and Cornell University. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Collagist, The Cincinnati Review, PN Review and EPOCH, among others. She lives in California’s Central Valley with her husband and young sons.

Binary Stars; and The Wolf at the Door both won a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in 2012 and are published on the Dorothy Rosenberg website.