Raphael Kosek

Red Canna, 1924
                      Georgia O'Keeffe

You are not a flower but a firestorm,
nothing hotter than your reds and yellows,
the purple bleed of your exploding heart,
grief offered up gold as joy.

You are the hoped for mardi gras,
the Friday night of the soul.
Anyone who burrows into your lips,
the crackle of your flame,

anyone who wakes and wakes
in the stirring sheaves of your heart,
does not go home again.

Journey with Man and Crows

The saw and swing of it –
          that beauty ride, that gorgeous gallop
                    that whistling in the hills,
swanning on the water
          as our boats glide unwavering
                    through the deep valleys
cutting color like stained glass until
          riotous rising of the pheasant
                    from the soft sedge of bottomlands,
rising like the very heart itself
          in the man who looks long
                    who breathes the air – incredulous
at what knocks in his chest, what
          floats over the river lifting
                    to the tops of wintered trees
where the crows gather and gather
          adding their cries to his life,
                    their noteless unwritten music
piercing old timber, deepening distance.

Twenty-One Days: The Soldier’s Mother

                                        for Catherine S.

Twenty-one days until he comes home
and each one fires likes the desert sun.
Her heart has long worn camouflage,
laced up the boots of its beating –
her breath tightly controlled.

She knows he will come home
different.  Twenty-one pearls
on a string, she prays the cord will hold,
she curses the ties that bind.

Twenty-one eggs in a basket,
twenty-one loaves and fishes,
but if the multiplication fails . . .
Her heart wears a helmet,
her voice fills with sand.

Twenty-one miracles nearly too much
to ask.  Twenty-one blackbirds
breaking out of a pie.  Twenty-one reasons
not to die.  No one can know

what walls have come down,
what limbs she has severed –
how she blows herself up every day.

About the Author

Raphael Kosek, a Hudson Valley native, teaches English at Marist College and Dutchess Community College. Her poems have appeared in Margie: Journal of American Poetry, Kalliope, Water-Stone Review and many other journals and anthologies. She began writing poetry at age twelve, and after graduating Vassar College, teaching English, and raising two children, she returned to it. Her first published book—a chapbook, LETTING GO, has received praise from writers such as Eamon Grennan and Nancy Willard. She is currently working on another book of poems, many of which are inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. She is a Recipient of a Dutchess County Arts Council 2008-2009 Individual Artist’s Fellowship Award.

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