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.
Copyright © 2018 by Kara Van de Graaf
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
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.”
“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.”
“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.”