Accidental Hosts, If someone says Catalina, & Winter

Accidental Hosts 
Margot Kahn

We fuck several times a week until
it gets tiresome and then we watch TV
or go to the movies. If the days

don’t add up, we forget about it
for the month and drink with abandon.
No matter if we’re supposed to stay away

from queso, street drugs and raw eggs. If
in those weeks our uterine linings
look thin or sad, it’s not because we

haven’t tried. But we wouldn’t say we are
trying. When the baby is conceived
we’ll drink only tea. If it’s a ghost,

we’ll lie down to hold it in until
we have to stand up, put our hands between
our legs and let it slip through our fingers

in the shower down the drain. If the twelfth
week comes and it’s still there, we will make
phone calls and fill out paperwork. We

are not puppets or disciples. We don’t want
to be cast out, marooned with a crib
in an empty room. We are accidental

hosts. We want to be what we’ve been—go
to the same job, the same bar, shoot the same
game of pool when our stomachs bulge over

the lip of the table. We are reviled,
derided, feared, and crowned. Yes, some fit
in their regular jeans for six months

and don’t break out and still want sex, but look—
look at this thing we’ve done because we’re
animals and we said we’ll see what happens

until it actually happened and we
wondered what we’d done beyond logic
or reason in the light of the open door

peeling deli meat from the crisp paper
wrapping, folding it into our mouths.
If someone says Catalina
Margot Kahn

I think of this Janis Joplin
low-slung corduroy

cello-playing boy.
His gold hair swung

like a tiki bar curtain,
the fringe of a flapper dress

across my leg. Together
in a twin bed I was a window

and that hair was a shade
and the tassel, from my neck

to my navel, pulled itself down.
That boy played like nothing

I could afford—a twenty-year
whiskey on the rocks,

the melt of a glacier
pooled at my feet.

Now someone says Catalina
or cello or cancer

and I’m there again
singing over his requiem.

Tassel and tongue.
Shade and shroud.

Was it the hair, or the hands?
The sound, or the shape of the sound?

I’m saying this so that you
help me remember him.

So his mother knows
that night is accounted for.
Winter
Margot Kahn

My husband and I get divorced
every winter, driving over the mountains.
It’s like the joke about the chicken,
where the thing on the other side
is something worth getting to, only
the chicken is carrying the Talmud.
We’ll be fine, says my husband.
But it’s not us, I say,
that I’m worried about.
On the icy road we stop behind
a single-file line of cars.
While we wait, my son tiptoes
to the shoulder and pees.
The road is slick under packed snow,
dirty and deceptive, the way it was
when I was young and boys
would take me out in cars
late on winter nights, crank
the wheels and slam the brakes
in empty 4-ways, spinning us
like teacups at the county fair,
flesh into flesh, careening close
to tree trunks and telephone poles,
our tires leaving great, looping,
Spirograph tracks we’d get out
and admire, howling
into the stale suburban night.
My husband and I get divorced
every winter, driving over the mountains.
It’s like the joke about the chicken,
where the thing on the other side
is something worth getting to, only
the chicken is carrying the Talmud.
We’ll be fine, says my husband.
But it’s not us, I say,
that I’m worried about.
On the icy road we stop behind
a single-file line of cars.
While we wait, my son tiptoes
to the shoulder and pees.
The road is slick under packed snow,
dirty and deceptive, the way it was
when I was young and boys
would take me out in cars
late on winter nights, crank
the wheels and slam the brakes
in empty 4-ways, spinning us
like teacups at the county fair,
flesh into flesh, careening close
to tree trunks and telephone poles,
our tires leaving great, looping,
Spirograph tracks we’d get out
and admire, howling
into the stale suburban night.

Margot Kahn is the author of the biography Horses That Buck, winner of the High Plains Book Award, and co-editor of the anthology This Is the Place, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, Lenny Letter, The Los Angeles Review, BUST, and Publishers Weekly, among other places. Winner of the Crab Creek Review 2019 Poetry Prize and finalist for Palette Poetry’s 2019 Emerging Poet Prize, her poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, New England Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. Margot earned an MFA from Columbia University and has been supported by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture and ArtistTrust. She’s currently at work on a new biography, Until Tomorrow, and a forthcoming anthology, Wanting (Catapult 2023).

Her book A Quiet Day with the West on Fire was the finalist of the 2021 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award.

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