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 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.
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.