Kate Buckley
Email: Kate@KateBuckley.com


Selected Poems:

The Life Cycle of Moths

Sometimes I wonder why she didn't kill us
when she had the chance.

Why she didn't smoke or drink,
or take the drugs, fashionable then.
Why she didn't drive the car
into guardrails, embankments

bursting her belly
against skull of steering wheel.

Somehow it happened,
and if you could have seen inside her,
you would have seen us:
small, woven into her underbelly,
miniature women still without fur,
moth-hands clutched together,
praying even then.

from "Follow Me Down"

Winner of North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Prize, 2008


There’s an honesty to planting,
in saying to seeds,
here’s what I want from you:

Grow until your heads touch
the tallest slat on the tumbledown wall
and then bud. Break open your heads
and flower, and when that’s done,

In return, I will give you
meal, minerals, the dung of cloven
animals. I will take measure
of your soil and add what you need,
take what I

In January, I will hang you
with leftover fir,
grind trees
to place at your

I’ll pluck snails from your leaves,
sluggish brown bodies loathe
to part from your

I will water you in a slow warm
stream, the garden hose wrapped
at my feet, a gently coiled cobra
who will not

I will break back
your dead wood.
I will feed you in spring.
I will take only what I need,
and then I will say to you:

from "Follow Me Down"

This poem first appeared in New Southerner, Spring 2009 and is currently under consideration for a Pushcart Prize.

Neshoba County, Mississippi, 1964

The bodies were mounded in an earthen dam,
waterlogged and rough-rocked, shot through
with silt, more clay than flesh – set up to stem the flow
of the river, though the water ran through them still.

Waterlogged and rough-rocked, shot through
the back as they drove deep rutted roads, headed
for the river – the water runs through them still.
Dragged like four-point bucks, fresh shot and killed.

Back down deep rutted roads, beheaded
limbs deadweight in the mouths of dogs;
dragged like four-point bucks, fresh shot and killed.
The smell of fear marched through our town.

Limbs deadweight in the mouths of dogs, buried
so they’d no longer lie down, covering us
as the smell of fear marched through our town –
the darkness threatened to wash us all away.

They’d no longer lie down, covering us –
the air was hung with blood, thick with disaster;
the darkness threatened to wash us all away,
breath was thick in our lungs that summer.

The air was hung with blood, thick with disaster;
bodies more clay than flesh, set up to stem the flow
of breath, thick in our lungs that summer –
the bodies were found, mounded in an earthen dam.

from "Follow Me Down"
This poem first appeared in Shenandoah, Fall/Winter 2009 and is currently under consideration for a Pushcart Prize.

Dead Horse Trail
The Alaskan Klondike, 1898

One ton of goods per person:
supplies to start a life

hauled by hand, sled or horses,
fifteen hundred steps in glacial ice,
a slow stampede of pick-ax and sewing machine.

Three thousand horses dead along the way,
small price to pay for gold and good luck.

Whipped by ice, snow, and stick
through slush and stink
of mud, man and beast,

they did not rest for winter,
did not pause as glaciers do;

their bones splayed in rocky passes
white wings
the bowl of the rib cage
overturned in the snow.

Some walked to the ledge,
stepped slowly over

hooves cleaving air for an instant
dark against snow,
then striking rock:

the accordion of bone
breaking in small syllables.

from "Follow Me Down"
Winner of the Gabehart Prize, 2007

Laurel County

There must have been times
Kentucky seemed a life sentence,
a dark-veined monster burning coal in her belly,

the coughs that stained your linens black
no matter how many times you bleached them back
by the creek where you caught crawdads for supper.

You tell me of life but do not mention hunger,
you speak instead of land: tramping the fields in the wake of your father,
finding a fishing hole or story, and the last time you saw him,

Pappaw told you how Granddaddy got killed by a train,
cut in two on his way to the Hensley place

this, during Prohibition, and a man did what he could.

Your mother canned beans and berries
from the share-cropped fields behind the house.
I remember the jam, thick and expensive on Wonder Bread.

I never understood why you'd fix me with thundercloud eyes
if I did not finish my piece,
your Cherokee granny's picture glaring from the other room.

You made a kite for me once, weaving far into the night
a red tailed hawk with scarlet ribbons streaming like entrails
against the gray Kentucky sky.

I ran and ran,
legs fighting my lungs

could not let it fall.

You were on the hilltop
skirt taut,
caught between your legs, signaling something,
I could not make out what,

the kite obscuring my vision

the wind would catch it, then let it fall.

from "A Wild Region"
This poem first appeared in New Southerner, June/July 2006

The Politics of Wanting

The government of lost souls,
the language of loneliness,
there is never enough.
She knows that now.

The man she married
leaves his keys in the door
as if planning an escape route
should he wake in the middle of the night
look over at her sleeping form,
decide his heart cannot last another day.

In the mornings he makes her coffee,
a small offering of peace.

Weeks go by without their touching;
moving past one another in hallways
they apologize for a brushed arm, elbow,
the hanging sorrow of a love grown cold.

She watches him with the horses,
how he grips their manes, racing against clouds.
He looks at her strangely,
she wonders if he can read her mind.

The vicious pruning of time,
the inept metaphor of sleep,
the grass-green beauty
of the way she moves beneath him
as he wills himself to other lands.

from "A Wild Region"
This poem first appeared in Slipstream #26

When We Were Young

I was always the darker one,
dusky as a gypsy my Granny said,
with cat-colored eyes,
legs longer than was good for me,
always bruised from climbing trees,

my sister, china eyed,
skin paler than any moon
smooth as the jazz
our parents played late at night
after we'd gone to bed.

I saw them once
moving slowly into each other
against the pale August night,
his dark hand on her shoulder,
her laughter, the brightest sound
I have ever known
sailing up and over
lighting every candle in the room.

from "A Wild Region"

A Poem of Strong Wishes

I live at the end of the world
free to come and go at will,
the shore the only thing binding me

and the last time I saw Grandmother
she said such funny things—
over and over she wonders

why I left Kentucky;
another time she says
this place is such a mess

over and over,
until I lay hands on her bird bones
and whisper

the way you do to the wind
or a very small child,

and then I say Gran, it’s beautiful,
everything is beautiful.

I wish and whisper in her spun-floss hair

as fine as any dandelion
You can go now
if you want.

Flying back to the shore
I think that none of us are free
bound as we are

by promises outliving us all,
the grasping at things
pulling us in and out of worlds.

— from "A Wild Region"

Click here to see additional poems from A Wild Region
Click here to see additional poems from Follow Me Down

Kate Buckley

  2012 Kate Buckley