Katie Chaple

Two poems from Katie Chaple’s How clearly you can see some nights

followed by a note on the author

How clearly you can see some nights

So many stars like salt crystals
scattered on a tablecloth,
the seeming blankness of space,
but it isn’t—it is cities, filled, and history
rages its prayer wheel, spinning
loose chains as the bonfire sparks, flickers
the field, dismantling the evening into night,
too soon into daybreak. The two of you walk into the field
drunk and admiring. The two of you dismantle
the evening, drink, look up, stop,
look up, sway. Let the dear friend burning
from too much, lean against and into you,
and you both stagger under the weight
of the artifacts tattooed in their significance above,
tarot cards pointing back to the beast of the beginning.
We all should be naked, you think, allowing the fire to burn back
to some country of existence.

And your friend recalls himself as a child, and further,
when he died in a room in a warm, bright country,
and before, when he drank with other friends on shore,
boats, harbor-bright and pulling at their tethers,
and your friend is only words. He is scrawled,
black, expanding into the page.

And you, you wish he could love this mirror first—
the moon, the fire of an hour.
This dream you both walk in fires its lunar tongue,
the hour of your deaths, conceivable to him
but to you, an intemperate planet with no name,
and the day, today, you spent hiking in the woods, swimming
with these friends deforms, all of you distillations
of yourselves that will disappear
when you return home from this place where bonfires
order the night, and the Milky Way
is visible to you like it hasn’t been since you were a child,
and you want to know how the night collapsed,
how everything started falling away;
you’re trying to piece together the shores
of everyone before they started drifting back,
away from now, away from this place,
how you were just at the edge of a field.



View from my yard —

The night there was a fire eater
behind our house in a neighbor’s yard my mother
had gone into the hospital for her heart. The party
ringed him, and below, I looked up into this scene
one street over. He began with fire on chains, swinging
them—above his head, then repeated the figure of infinity—
one in front of him, another behind his back.
All this in silence. What is not made more foreign at such a late hour
in January cold, me in a housecoat and my mother
wired, green beeps outside her body
that explained the noise inside? I’ve heard
that the most important question is Why?
Then the most important answer begins with because.
I realized that we could still be surprised—
that we could make up instead of remember.
In some foreign tongue that vibrates
when spoken, mother, horse, and ghost
are all the same word. He twirled
batons, arced orange that trailed
behind itself like kicked-up dust,
like the reverberation of a bell
after its clang. This small privacy rings
through me, measures. For over an hour, he juggled
flame, and for a finale, made it disappear down his throat,
pitching us all into darkness over and over
like it wasn’t a trick to make the fire come back.



How clearly you can see some nights first appeared in The Rumpus; View from my yard– first appeared in Five Points

Katie Chaple is the author of Pretty Little Rooms (Press 53,), winner of the 2012 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry through Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She is editor of Terminus Magazine, published through Georgia Tech and also serves as the McEver Chair in Community Outreach with Poetry @ TECH. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as American Literary Review, Antioch Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blackbird, Crab Orchard Review, Five Points, Greensboro Review, Mead, Passages North, Poetry International, The Rumpus, Washington Square, and others.