Afterlife by Gayle Kaune

When I was a child and had ideas
about religion my father called
me smarty pants. He wanted no
interference to his way of thinking.
Maybe he was right.
I felt no empathy for the wan, tubercular,
desert fathers or others whose strings

were pulled by the Vegas mob.
Only ten, I knew there was an
underworld in my hometown
where people never slept
and mothers wore fishnet
stockings, taught their daughters
to mend the tears.

I can discuss these events — moldy
water recirculated in the swamp
coolers of childhood: My first kiss,
with Joe Spoleto, on his parents’ patio,
under flickering bug lights,
the air we breathed, laced with particles
from tests at Yucca Flats.

These memories like dust storms,
some drift away, some still glow:
Father’s photo on the front page
of the Review Journal, his face bruised,
beat up in the desert one night by crooks;
Mother winning a mink stole,
wearing it over a dress that flamed
her cleavage with rhinestones.



Gayle Kaune has been published widely in literary magazines including Poet and Critic, Crab Creek Review, Seattle Review, Milkweed Editions, South Florida Poetry Review, and Centennial Review. She has won several Washington Poets Awards, a Ben Hur Lampmann award, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her book, Still Life in the Physical World, was published by Blue Begonia Press; her latest, All the Birds Awake, is available from Tebot Bach. She also has two chapbooks: N’Sid-Sen-Star and Concentric Circles, which won the Flume Press Award. Her latest manuscript, Noise From Stars, is looking for a home.

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