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Kate Partridge

I had so adapted myself / to our silence that I forgot to make enough / noise while circling the lake and startled / not a bear, but a bush

A Suitable Host

Wearing the same thing every day means
you control an empire of technology
or that it’s the one suit you have
or that you find comfort, as I do,
in always being able to find yourself
quickly in a mirror. September, I am
expanding in all sorts of ways, surprising
only because I am not prone to belief
in the apps that foretold what was
coming: the baby sized like an apple
then butternut squash; sometime in
between, both a tomato and a postcard
in the same week. Equivalence
requires imagination. Now two
buttons barely keep their heads
afloat above the baby’s stretch inside.
At the cabin, I leaned my arms too much
on the scrappy porch table, which for some
time had not discharged its splinters
and found me a new and suitable host.
A problem is not better if you can see it.
I knew each time the fire alarm shrieked
in the night exactly what its trouble was,
but I could not find the right combination
of long and short prods with the broom
handle to calm it. Nothing was aflame.
It was just being a fucker, as I explained
to my stomach. The world is full
of them. I was trying to make good choices
with seven months of baby inside, so I
did not build a tower of chairs and books
and suitcases to try to reach the alarm
way up in the peak of the cabin ceiling,
but I did fantasize about it in detail for
nearly two hours in the intervals, ten
minutes between cries, until somehow
it acquiesced. The morning was beginning
again; I went in my thick coat to the rise
above the playa where I could watch the sun
drifting out over the sand. Where the phone
received just enough input that I could be
sure I was still there, at the end
of the messages. Across the open field,
the clustered deer headed down a different
path. The whites of their tails barely
signaled their departure into dawn.

It's a Day

in which we all are stretching our
harmlessness across the hours, shifting
at each ping to a new display. The aspen
is shaking again, but has calmed
from full-fledged tremors to a silent
pillar of waving hands, not the kind delighted
to find you here on the cabin porch, but
the sort that are not sure if they knew you
in high school. I had so adapted myself
to our silence that I forgot to make enough
noise while circling the lake and startled
not a bear, but a bush, which seemed to rev
itself into a roar nonetheless, quite like
the sound a few days earlier when my car
expired in a mouthful of its own
breath outside of Wendell, Idaho,
as though it knew that the muscles will expel
what remains at the end. Waiting for the tow,
I flipped through a magazine and the end
of a bag of sour gums that had found
its way to my person. The semi-trucks
recklessly flapping by. The bush was stuffed
with birds who, in my presence, flipped
their wings on all at once, as though
they had seen one of those walking
live nativities where, as you arrive,
the shepherds put down their juice boxes
and begin to sing off-key. When
the birds completed their individual
bursts outward, it was time to let them
re-set the scene: to move on to the next
section of narrative, which must exist
somewhere down the path trampled in
loose ends and roundabouts, one beginning
on which the needle descends again and again.

Kate Partridge is the author of the poetry collection Ends of the Earth (University of Alaska Press, 2017) and the hybrid chapbooks Guide to Urban Reindeer (Essay Press, 2017) and Intended American Dictionary (MIEL, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Field, Yale Review, Pleiades, Colorado Review, and other journals. She is a PhD candidate in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California, and she co-edits Switchback Books.