Arizona Poets: Katherine Larson

Arizona Poets is a series featuring 20 poets from Arizona in honor of our 60th Anniversary. These poets have all visited the Poetry Center and recordings of those visits are available in our audiovisual archive, Voca. Click here to learn more about our anniversary and here to see the rest of this series

Katherine Larson smiles at the camera, wearing a large yellow scarf
Photo by Cybele Knowles for the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Copyright © 2012 Arizona Board of Regents.

Katherine Larson is the author of Radial Symmetry, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 2010, and The Speechless Ones. A poet and essayist, she teaches for the Stonecoast MFA program and volunteers her time with the PEN America Prison Writing Program. She has spent years working in the field of molecular biology and currently lives in Arizona.

See more of Larson's work on Voca.


In the dream, I am given a monkey heart

and told to be careful how I love

because of the resulting infection.

Suddenly a hard-boiled egg with no yolk,

I pitch down a great hill in a holy city,

past the flaming beakers of ethanol,

the lapis bowls in which Science

would peel me apart. And when I skid

into a fleshy patch of grass,

I unroll into a grub. A grub with the mind

of a girl, a girl with the lips of an insect.

A voice says, Metamorphosis

will make you ugly. I answer:

Radiance will change its name.

In the heat I squirm and shrug

out of my summer suit and breathless

split into a cotton dress. It is almost

evening. There are firelies.

On the lawn of my childhood house,

an operating table, doctors,

a patient under a sheet. I walk up.

Under the webbing of IVs,

a surgeon hands me a silver comb

and I start brushing the patient’s hair

like I did my mother’s when I was a girl.

The nurse lifts the sheet.

It isn’t my mother. It’s the monkey.

I bend my ear to its dying lips

and it says: You haven’t much time—

risk it all.


From Radial Symmetry. New Haven: Yale University Press, ©2011. Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press.