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  • Writer's pictureNeon Mariposa Magazine

Two Poems by Kat Terban


For Gorō Nyūdō Masamune, Zatōichi, and Daigorō

There are people whose experiences

in life have hammered at them over

and over, folding them like steel

at the tongs and anvil of a smith

so skilled at their craft that they are left

with the ability to roll away the blows

that come at them later in life while

they remain supple in strength despite

whatever the world and the peoples

filling the world throw at them.

Even if they sit there,

a brick of stacked plates,

the forge welded steel that

has experienced shita-kitae,

coated in a mixture of clay,

water, and straw-ash, full of

dreams of being useful and

making a difference someday,

if they’re only given the scant

opportunity to be; or maybe

they lay on a shelf in the back

of a shop, a block of forge

welded steel, a shihozume

uchigatana-to-be; or perhaps

they were forged, a stretched

ayasugi-hada sword that leads

from the front, edge shining

with the hamon ripples

of their age clear for all

and everyone to see

and admire:

ground sharp and given the opportunity,

when thrust forward to the front and center

none of these will let you down, when all

there is to do is the next right thing,

where the path forward only allows

us to put one foot in front of the other.

God Blinked

When I started writing poems

through the lens of the coronavirus, I saw

the worst-case scenarios and how the primrose

path would be lined with the bodies of the people

the man I never consented to be president abhorred.

Because weakness to him describes a person

who can’t pay for access to care, who can’t

afford an at will proposition without the rubber

snap of protection, who can’t afford to even

tie a shirt around their face for a mask

because they’re afraid to ride the bus

to the laundromat. They have to conserve

the bowl of bar soap slivers the neighbors

threw in their garbage for hand washing.

They could only ever afford

the packets of cheap, grained

detergent from the pull tab machine

that still smells of nicotine where

the drone and clunk of machines

once lived. They breathe deep

the memory of that smell, still hooked

from the ride on the bus in fourth grade.

Even if they could spare the soap,

the only place in the apartment

they’re cramped up in to hang

their bare closet of things to dry

is a shower curtain rod that’ll leave

rust stains on the single uniform they have

left, the one they wore when they used

to clean your toilets at the seedy motel.

You know the place? The one where

you fucked the person who’s not your spouse.

All three of their part time gigs aren’t vital.

They figure no one will notice when they stop

opening the hollow door of the only shelter

they have left. They figure people

will do their fucking at home, now.

Kat Terban's work has been published and anthologized in many places, most recently LittleDeathLit. They were: shortlisted in the 18th Annual BrainStorm Poetry Contest, named Outstanding Young Poet in 2019, chosen by a panel of judges to tour on the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, invited to read their poem "Pandemic - COVID19" to a live audience on Rattle Poetry Review's weekly Poets Respond Open Mic podcast, and read an excerpt of their poem "When the Interviewers Asked What They Did During the Pandemic" on NPR's In It Together radio broadcast on 4/14/20. They are a member of the Connecticut Poetry Society.

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