5 Poems by Kara Goughnour [Poetry]

Decorating Cake with Thorns

I’m weeping willow arms gnarled,
my skin orange-brown and creaking,
limbs too limp to hold hope any longer.

Every time I’ve felt as though I’m dying
I haven’t died and I’m wishing I could remember
that the next time I think myself dead.

I trek home on public trains with dying plants
deemed trash. Sometimes they keep living,
sometimes they just have a kinder place to die,

but the sentiment of saving makes me feel human.
It’s hard to care for the body – banal in its expectedness,
a broken bow thankless to its deepest ring –

much easier to calculate what’s outside of myself.
A living plant deserves to live because it’s already living.
A dying person can’t decide if they’re dying satisfactorily enough to live.


Sweetie, You’re Strange

Under this fawn-like facade,
this sweet-natured gnashing,
are these fangs rooted downward,
these wing-clipped blades of bone.
How many tears should I shed
before you believe I’m drinking?
Before you see I’m not useless droops
of blue-bruised skin oozing want,
another writhing child in a grocery aisle.
Can you not believe triumph without trauma,
without the trophy wall of tankas,
each bleeding blot of comma breaking line?
You demand receipts detailing each derail
and the deletion of each success-trail.
How you’d love to make me smaller,
an impossible red sheen of lung screaming,
It’s mine. I promise it’s mine.


Hearing the Strange

I hate not sleeping next to you
because I hate the weight of waking
alone, the cold brushing against my shoulder,
nuzzling my wet cheek.
I keep a steady diet of dissatisfaction
and DayQuil, write the bad taste out of life
with enough dissimilarities to call it fiction
without the lie left on my tongue.
I don’t take kindly to kindness,
can’t trust the first good things
to happen to me
because they’re the first good things
to happen to me. But I am always letting things
happen to me, always taking
just the suggested amount,
swallowing it down without a choke.


Frozen Satan on a Flying Pig

A friend jokes that writing right
is not writing and instead drinking
until you die, but there nights where
we drink just to dull these pigeon brains
and write. I calculate the impossibility
of my writing, alongside the impossibility
of my waking again, every morning
after I wake. This tart lemon timer
that is my heart can’t ignore
its blue-painted letters, always goes off
a little earlier than I’d like.
But I’d rather wake, forever unsatisfied
in the sour stomach of the sunrise,
the spinning orange bile of the sky,
than to stay in complacent twilight,
forever wondering if the night is
something worth sticking though.


Hearing Color

Lately, I’ve been finding lost things
that aren’t my own and returning them,
which goes to show I can’t
let a dead thing die. Can’t
count on a pariah pierced
with barbed wire to balance
these dire days of winter.
Lately, I’ve been traveling without
the societal boycott of my headphones;
I’ve been hearing the night train’s
rattling cough through the steel
hand-hold pipes. I am a presumptuous prayer
to Mother Nature, a figure skater
on the iced moon of Presumpscot.
I am flipping for tips of mint-green pennies,
the copper-tinted tails spinning
like the splayed entrails
of this green growth of brain.


By Kara Goughnour

  • Kara Goughnour is a queer writer and documentarian living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They received their Bachelor’s Degree in Creative and Professional Writing from The University of Pittsburgh. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award, and have work published or forthcoming in Third Point Press, the Southampton Review, and over twenty-five others. Follow them on Twitter @kara_goughnour or read their collected and exclusive works at karagoughnour.com.

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