Kathleen Tyler
        Kathleen Tyler’s poems are filled with disease, fatal crashes, abuse, divorce, broken families, exile and sorrow—they are beautifully, courageously and savagely confessional. Tyler’s reading of her work is unforgettable; the poems themselves, on the printed page, also stay in the mind. In one poem, characteristically called “Fractured Sestina: After She Left,” a mother tells her daughter that the way babies get made is like sticking a plug into a socket. In another poem, one about Mother’s day, Tyler writes:  “An old lady in the last stages of Parkinson’s, her body nodding no no no.”  That, English teachers should note, is a sentence fragment—because Tyler writes about a shattered world. Even on a honeymoon, this is how she describes the newlyweds:  “In the long mirror, two bodies mourn toward each other.” And that single remarkable verb—mourn—says it all.  Pain is perhaps not overcome but it is taken on, addressed, grappled with, dragged out of its grim shadows in the act of writing, and that alone is something to celebrate.

Why I Left Florida

One Saturday afternoon at the bowling alley when I was eight, I ran off. Shrieking with cleverness, I hid behind racks of shoes, flashing pinball machines. The thunder of balls rolling down lanes, smashing into pins, was so loud that I could not hear my mother call. When I giggled my way into the house, her head was cradled in the hook of my father’s arm, his fist slamming into her face. After all, I was his favorite. For years, they tried to make it up. Easter egg hunts in the park, home-made sun dresses, summers at Indian Rocks beach. But I still hear muffled shouts, the closet door splintering when she crashed into it. Sobbing, my mouth pressed into the carpet. Please. I don’t want to be so terribly loved.

First published in My Florida, The Backwaters Press, 2008.

2009 Kathleen Tyler
Kathleen Tyler was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the December 2009
Second Sunday Poetry Series.