Kerri Webster - poems


Silence as cruelty

I would/love you ten years before the Flood

and would not, for any portion of those

years, make ready. Let the waters, let

the brine, rain a premonition
as what, finally,

isn’t: not quince. Not the dog

within his whimper. I am in a strange sea

that smells of juniper, I take my
punishment, I want

harder, force the quince in hot water,

rest until the sutures have collapsed, worlds
fallen in, gap between my palm and the small

of his back more wet than I remembered.
The sea people want to be the land people.
Tourmaline as death-cheat: a cabinetful
of things on chains.


Silence as immanence

When I was vigilant, nothing
showed. I was a huddle of
a woman. Taut 
wish. Fist
closed on light. 


Silence as terror

Inside my ears a sea and then
a sea again and on
the other side: everyone.


Silence as transfiguration

Anemia amnesia asemia: forget your fear.
Forget its metal aftertaste. Forget
how to scratch its name. Day a space we leave ourselves
to enter, not some place we pull
inside our minds.
I hold his hand. I oblate. Cloudy
vinegar, iron
bowl lined with gold, eyes
a cloud, humidifier chugging—

I will votive him until the sea itself is lit.
I will wrap wire around the leaves so when the leaves dissolve
I will still have the wire.


Silence as discipline

To do without/to wait/to study/to punish/to work until
pleasure: eyes’
sting, shoulders’ sad
root system pushing: I fail
at the museum, I fail
in the garden, I fail and then
I weep and then
I open the book again.





               Four Nature Watercolors
, Mario Reis, 2000, river silt on linen

All winter I hang silver
around my neck: poppy,
hemlock, small silver glyph
meaning Mountains ahead.
Inside the welt of winter,
the fields burn, pretty
as centurions. I was happy
being exploited by a proper
master. I’m better prostrate.
To gather on a flux of
stones—body’s nothing
river might not fix. Weather
of our good unmaking,
master weather: range
to silt, body to dumbstruck
fur. Given our inmost
breaking, why not break
well? Inside us all are boats
that look like seeds that
look like leaves that look
like flames. The cartilage
in my shoulder grinds. And
if my teeth chip. And if
I don’t wake again, salt
between my breasts—oh
honey keep nothing, nothing:
not my fingernails, not
this funerary jade for my
many apertures. A woman’s
no amphora. I feel all
radium, all nova. When,
in bed, you spoke of scattering
the ashes, you were
as creaturely a man as I’ve
ever seen. River a cooling
mechanism, body a drowning
machine. But not yet.


Kerri Webster's second book, Grand & Arsenal, was published by the University of Iowa this month. A 2011 Whiting Award winner, Webster currently lives in Idaho..