Splitting Image

Kara Van de Graaf

I have my mother’seyes, I have                                my mother’s nose,                                the Weiss familynose she calls it.I see its echo                                on my face                                like a photographxeroxed untilit is all grain, features                                present but out                                of focus. Onthe radio I listento doctors who                                thought the placenta                                could not be crossed.There was themother and then                                there was the child,                                alive but adjacent,like two countries.And now they look                                in the blood and                                see it isn’t true.Fetal cells stay alivein the mother,                                are not attacked                                though the DNA is foreign.This happenseven if the child                                isn’t born. Even if                                it is a mapfor someonewho never was.                                Our flesh is never                                our flesh alone.My mother changedher name when she                                married and I changed                                mine, though we stillcarry that older namewritten in our features.                                They avoid erasure                                even though Weiss meanscovered overand blanked, Weiss                                means forgotten.                                Sometimes,it means bleached,the way photographers                                dodge a dark spot                                on a negative, revealthe architectureof an image underneath.

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Kara van de Graaf is the recipient of the Hoepfner Literary Award and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among other honors. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, New England Review, the Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Best New Poets 2010. She is a cofounder and an editor of Lightbox Poetry and an assistant professor of English at Utah Valley University.

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry – First Book Award

“‘Things keep happening,’ Kara van de Graaf begins with her fine careful eye and ear on the large and the small—just sewing a seam as someone scrubs potatoes in the next room. Then it’s to deeper mysteries rendered strange. Suddenly, we never saw them before!—crow and horsefly, the ant colony’s queen (‘how many times /she had labored to repeat herself’), the giant sequoias, sunfish, whale (‘you patron saint / of taking up space’), starlings, dark wheeling flocks of them. And always the body fascinates and troubles, at home or in spaceflight where the astronaut’s bones keep ‘hollowing / at their center.’ Treasure this poet, her close and her far.”
—Marianne Boruch

“Shame is the loneliest of the emotions, and one that must be taught. Van de Graaf’s book is the pained, graceful unfurling of such shame, with the despised body as its locale. Paradox is wise but fraught, and both states abound in this gorgeous, refined book. Spitting Image joins the library of crucial books on how we learn to hate ourselves, and who it was who taught us. Yet it is more than that—it is wisdom literature, a voice extending past each deceiving thing.”
—Katie Ford

“When the arrow hits the bull’s-eye, we marvel at the precision and skill of the archer. Kara van de Graaf’s debut collection, Spitting Image, is such a skilled and powerful book. These poems behold the human form and know ‘our flesh is never / our flesh alone.’ This poet is the archer, the arrow, and the flight. She sees and sings to us, and her candor and her tenderness make this book a triumph.”
—Steve Scafidi

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