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kairo k. harshbarger
Kairo K. Harshbarger is a poet from Iowa, and her Diane DiPrima-like eye for mixing edgy eroticism and sensory expression distinguish her powerful work.

Works on this page:
Blue T.V. Glow
The Egg
Come Closer
Halloween in June
At three by seven



i wanted it to be my fault
My feet curled toes
over the concrete wall.
i knew you'd called someone
in a panic
but really just wanted
to wash your hands clean.
there i stood
waiting for the headlights
to scan the cathedral-type
so many steps down--
the four wheels slid
on the turn
crunching old sand and snow
into a quiet static
behind me.
there were the six
arms and hands
jello-y from the liquor
and saliva of drunk boys--
if only they would have
stumbled forward
or i would have had
more courage--
i wanted it to be my fault
you had stolen me away
plucked me from reality
and perched me on that
doorway like a gargoyle,
without you to
admire and stroke
and say so many things
when we both knew i was
one in a million.
Before this
i had stood
on even ground
with my toes curled,
eyes looking downward thinking
of what i'd do,
i could almost feel my
body turn to stone
as they pushed me into the backseat
("no one mention this,
she'll be fine")
brushed the snow from
my jeans,
genuine concern,
it was so fucked up.
i didn't talk,
did you know that?
for 24 hours,
because i wasn't open any longer,
no point in finishing my sentence.
Recovering in daylight,
i walked by your house.
looked up at your window
and saw you
staring down at the street.
your hands on the sill
elbows slightly bent,
head crouched a little
below the open pane.
your shirt was old,
short sleeved and green
but your face was new,
staring at me
in fear,
utter disbelief.
i stopped there
seeing you for the
first time it seemed
face to face.
you were the gargoyle
perched on your ledge
because we both knew,
you were one in a million,
and i was still alive.



i'm sick.
checking pulse points
checking into the place
of mind's end
where i'm not sure the world's
shape is round.
where i just stand in front of
the oppressive door
waving, smiling
the only time i've ever smiled.
on the other side are the doctors
who are teenagers
toting pill bottles,
the prettier the pill
the more you take
where i will be whirled
and whipped into a dairy queen
cone swirl
then licked up again
to go out and assimilate
with all of you
forgetting i had problems forgetting.
looking like every other good girl
with my lip gloss oh so barbie shiny
forgetting those kid doctor hands
in me
on me
around me
"jazz hands"
telling me about my mind gears
and how they'll never work,
get a hall pass and go to homeroom.
booted out--expelled back to you
all khaki and denim
girls and boys who
are compromised by my
name written in my underwear
by my earrings packed
away like weapons.
afraid because you are not me
but could be
and couldn't help
could never fix this because
it's you that's the problem
outside the confines of the building
which holds my hand
and says,
"right, dear, the world is flat."
where everyone wears black
and white
in black and white checkered rooms
where i smile
and take my teenage pills i should
have taken years ago
and smile
before running back to you.


Blue T.V. Glow

you're pretty paper laying boxed in
firey autumn oranges and reds
begging for someone
to write you.
after waiting so long,
like those leaves of paper,
you crinkle and disentegrate
into a static pile of beautiful dust
that could be blown away
with the lightest of breaths,
but i keep you here,
not everyone would,
and remember you as
the gold glittery superstar
of nineteen seventy three
taking you from room to room
finally realizing
that here,
in the dark of my heart
you are not orange or red
at all but
the blue t.v. glow
of midnight watching


The egg

Wet leaves of green
and sage gather
here at my edges
giving off the scent
of lilly pads and moss
covered with quiet dew of morning.
My mouth is an open egg
waiting for the air to
crack it,
waiting for a breath
or sigh to escape it
and hatch a thought
or two.
The sight across the gap
is dark and misty causing
me to strain my eyes of
sleep to see you.
Through the fog you appear
with lilacs in your clasped hands.
The fragrance is of sweet grapes
and sugar plum pie.
The water ripples you nearer
to my disappearing boundary
and the moss separates into a
dark liquid V
behind you
leaving a bride-groom trail
and I wait,
my mouth an open egg.

Come closer

I lean into you
cupping my hands infront of me,
you lean in,
your breath hits my neck,
your body heat
flows around me.
we don't know what to see
since we've become
so accustomed to the dark.
my hands form a small basket
four fingers over folded thumb
as i slowly
peel away each bar of flesh
to let rays of light
emit outward from a speck of sand
watch the yellow wash over your face.
you are a beautiful creature
with words imprinted on your cheeks
pictures of lotus buds
painted on your eyelids--
i had always known--
i had always known--
finally the light in my hands
reveals the story of us
which is written all over your being
as i no longer wait
for your lips to smudge letters
onto my mouth
for your fingers of alphabets to
dance songs onto my skin.
the blue hue has disappeared,
the past and future
captive in separate snow globes
because we are inches apart
for the first time.



he talked of violet wild berry hair,
hands of Asian silk,
and lips of blinding stars.
all the while
she sat motionless
watched his lips move,
felt goldfish
swimming in her heart,
imagined a crystal mikasa bowl
with side etchings of orchids
and silvery marbles lining the bottom
sitting on his mantle.
she babbled on and on to him
of midnight constellations
strobing nebulae and satellites
planetary shifts moving oceans
and moon waves of lunatics
as the steaming streams of their
coffee mingled and danced.
he took her hand
bubbled on and on about
a fish he had caught,
how she had opal fins
eyes of black diamonds
meat the pink of a southern sunset.
of course she smiled,
tamed the incessent paddling
of the goldfish in her heart
because of its dime store quality
carnival rose bowl ping pong ball
still listening to him rave
of this fish he'd so cleverly
she looked him in the eye,
goldfish to crystal,
told him she had aquariums full of
rare and exotic swimming beauties
at home,
that he had made no rare catch.
she said,
there is an empty bowl on your mantle
that would be perfect for one shimmering
lonely goldfish.
she let her hand drop from his
took her bundles of lilacs,
bunches of baby's breath
bags of lavender and sage
and splashed on her way,
leaving the beautiful bowl


Halloween in june

an orange pumpkin
smell surrounded me
like a fall bonfire
in the backyard
of prairie grass
set aflame by autumn's
winds and storms.
it was seedy
and raw
the fragrance of squash,
melon blossoms.
it enveloped me.
tonight of all nights
when my thoughts
were heavy with summer
and eighty degrees
cloudy already with you.
suddenly it all swam into the open
window of my car
whispering quiet halloween wishes
crinkling soft candy wrappers
as the candle in the pumpkin
burnt its inner skin
until the blackened char
reminded me of porch sitting
staring at the black sky
with paperpunch holes
looking at the moon
listening to yard laughter.
but tonight
it's june outside
and people are sipping tea
rocking on their swings
saying things about the upcoming
here in my heart
i'm carving pumpkins
inhaling the fall air
waiting for the sky to open up
with paperpunch holes
my costume to appear glittering
in the moonlight
and you to recognize me anyway.


At three by seven

too many damn cars
for this time of night.
makes it impossible to see.
but i see
on this dismal drive home
highway driving and driving highway
there, he slept there,
here, he said it here,
oh, yeah...that too.
fist on steering wheel,
gutted whisper in throat:
what's matter with me?
i think of you often
(what an understatement)
see your face inching toward mine
under that damn tree
"he's not the type to settle down,
do you think?"
your hands under my shirt
touching my face
laughing in my ear
afraid i might get closer
"is this too close?"
i'm driving again.
just driving.
the music is blasting.
nothing changes.
i never thought anything would,
that's a fucking lie,
i thought everything would change.
so i'll wait,
of course,
here on this road of signs
there in my apartment of boxes
somewhere on the screen of nicknames
for you
and your face to inch closer to mine
in my memory again
remembering how soft it was,
how you admitted to an alterior motive
my heart pounding
your lower lip in my mouth
my hand on your back
your fingers in my palm.
i'm a fool.
i want this too much.
this damn driving.
if i left here at three
i'd be to you by seven.

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