Kristen Orser


I still believe in the sentence, in the space of the sentence, as a place to pour out uncertainties—the sound of stepping on sticks. I can't imagine our minds as something discontinuous, but as something that gathers and multiples. Prose poetry makes a space for associations; a space for the mind to reveal that it is seeing the world; a space for the sentence to stretch, fall apart, withdraw, and accumulate. What else but space, room to experience the poem?







Have often thought of the past, when I was a little girl riding a bicycle with a basket, thinking everything delightful, even winter and snow past my knees.

Then I left the field of chicory and couldn't open locked doors, didn't know what to call God—was God the fog or the moon or a lark? I started reciting poems, the names of flowers, until I learned some of the roots were poison.


Some people said now is not the time to write poems or the time to lay in the fields looking for a God.

Those people had seen the atom bomb, had been inflicted with a nostalgia for a future that never happened, had been unable to put themselves into words.


All of us have stared into the darker parts of the ocean, under rotting logs, and in between the clefts of rocks; we've thrown our old refrigerators down hills, picked burrs off our socks, and set traps for the mice, but we haven't given up everything—we keep tin angel ornaments on the tree and hat boxes full of old loves' love letters.

When the wind is blowing, we rub our eyes, try to see past this afternoon to another afternoon where we can sit under a Hickory and share our shining secrets.


I've only been able to make a flower out of a seed and a seed out of a flower. I've only been able to make a God out of imagination and imagination out of a dream of a Garden.

The songs that were sung to me when I was going to bed need to be sung again until there is nothing else but the sound of all of us singing and trying to put that sound into a basket so a little girl can carry it to the next town over and the town after that.


The clock is always blinking the last hour of the day. I remember time like an assembly of daydreams and pulled butterfly wings. And I am never dressed for the weather or for saying goodbye.




         -- with apologies to Plato


The minnow has traditionally served as an introduction to the idea of slightness. The comely silver raises questions about loveliness, questions about the drama of shinning fins next to seaweed.

The child found a dead Tonguetied Minnow and cradled it in cupped hands.

The child said, Can you tell me, minnow, whether beauty is something teachable? Or is it not teachable, but something that comes from practice, something that comes from curving your body and shining next to rocks? Or is it something that's in your nature?

And the minnow said nothing.

The child brought the minnow home, showed it to his mother who said, So, you have seen the dead.

Later, the door to the house closed without anyone touching it and the Venetian blinds shook. The mother had an erotic dream about a boy she said goodbye to long ago and her husband dreamed she was dreaming of him.

The child had kept the dead minnow, he had tucked it under his pillow and he is stunned in the morning when the minnow is gone.




Kristen_Orser.jpgKristen Orser is an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago, where she co-edits the Columbia Poetry Review. Most recently, her work has appeared in After Hours, Redactions, Womb Poetry, Babel, kaleidowhirl, the Sylvan Echo, and Ab Ovo. Referring to herself in third person makes her want to turn her self inside out.