Two Poems by Kristen McHenry


After: “Now, Discover your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton



You sense the famine in empty veins of leaves. Bone-birds summon you from frozen wires. Your restless need for banquets may not be logical but you understand the hollow tuck in their downy gloss of wings. You carry smoke and bells with grace. When faced with complex factors, you draw down mica and paint spirals on all locked gates in sight. Your friends call you ghost orchid, amethyst, cleric of water wheels and bright fat plums. Some are puzzled by your sprawl of bread and lilacs, but still consume your bounty. It’s your nature to know the genus of every hunger, to shimmer in the distance without effort. For you starvation is abstract. If necessary, you will grind the hulls yourself.


Star Language

Patron saint of planetariums, you negotiate the chatter of the cosmos with gentle instinct, you watch over those who watch the night from telescopes and bonfires, and send their wild prayers to Nut. To you it’s nothing, this holding of a billion silver murmurs, this rapt interpretation of the furies of the sky. You’re counted on for your precision in the loom of star ancestors, each stitch forms a story that is granted and re-told. Some would say you speak too quickly but you know full well the urgency. You cannot stop speaking prophecy for the stars have charmed your tongue. You are bridge and lullaby, and we will free-fall in your sound.



And not just cooling shades of sooth-song, but white blue of rage, warning blue, what comes to us in spits and sparks, danger of first illumination, wild ignition of touch and blissful transfer. Light to use your earthen body as its holy host. Blue of over-worn, blue of standing on the shore in late December twilight, blue of eggs and Sunday sweaters, blue of lone boys and low note afternoons in the only open bar, blue of going home, blue of intimate winters, blue of the enlightened heron, who keeps exquisite equilibrium with cobalt sky and pond.



The Anesthesia Technician in Retirement

 Before death, the counting. If they allow it, my hands and the song of my hands. My native blessing.

To be born is one thing, but to awaken every morning: Rose of Hope, ardent bloom,  stoic and striving. To go alone each night.

I walked them over every stone low to the lapping edge. I told them to dream of Chinese noodles, grenadine and swans. The heat of my palms guided their descent.

I want to emerge magnificent again, exalted against the sunrise. Simply: to awaken in happiness.

I would chart each foot of submersion, but still they rose up terrible, slammed to the surface, yet to shift from their underskins: monster, newborn, terror-wrecked.

Now I am yanked each morning from the underworld, hag fish, thrashing on the brown water, battling air with my soft gray teeth.

Later they thanked me, the ones who shattered intact.



Author Bio:

Kristen McHenry is a Seattle-based poet, fiction writer, and day-jobber. Her work has been seen in literary magazines including Bare Root Review, Numinous, Tiferet, Sybil’s Garage, and Big Pulp. It’s also been seen huddling at the bottom of her sock drawer, covered in mothballs. You can find her most nights napping in front of the T.V., clutching her poetry journal as a prop.





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