Kara Goughnour

My Father Shares His Photo Library in the Family iCloud


Among many things, my father takes
photos of a Michelob Classic Dark tap handle,
filmy renditions of sand and sea (maybe Tampa,
maybe some place I don’t yet know),
selfies taken seemingly by accident—
my father looking down at us,
down through us,
down at something past us,
his brows bent like Atlas
holding the weight of his head—
a Snapple cap reading “the first human-made object
to break the sound barrier was a whip.”
Among many things, I find photos
of my brother’s shoe nestled into the side my father’s,
the two shoes surely posed
just for that moment,
my father’s hand, close enough to show veins and pores,
holding a tape measure to what can only be a car engine,
and his wedding band, titanium or stainless steel and ridged,
another piece of him I had never considered the existence of
until seeing it detached instead of whole.


Ode to Maxwell House and the Woman Who Brews it Best

I drink blue-black coffee beside my grandmother
on a white-wood porch in the North Carolina dawn.
She looks like the beach herself,
a Wilhemine nursing an OBX mug,
burnished ochre skin and a froth of hair
in the lightest yellow. I believe every Sunday’s sand
sermon is in honor of her – such an indecipherable power
must be holy. For her each meadow-grass strand bows,
each crustacean cowers in its sandy lappet,
each lazy trumpet sings,
each seagull cry keeps beat.


Dill Weed

We were always trying again
like it was the first time,
you still a mother in the formal sense,
in the blooming sense,
the kind that still has hope flowing,
me an unnipped bud of a thing
still branching from you.
The last time we told soil
how to hold itself, trickled
tap water like sweet sap over
deer-eaten dew, you pulled
each slender green life until it snapped
loose from its mother’s cord,
sliced the cucumber thin as fingernails
on a raw wood slab, and added spices in.
The dill weed breathed like a green sea anemone
fighting the storm waves, bashed in by garlic
added in clumping splashes.
Before I left I was sure it would be the last time,
but you gave me the pickles in two hulking jars,
pruned hands prying and pushing the glass into me.
It’s hard to end things when there’s debt you owe.
Last night, I dreamt of you smashing my face in
with a mason jar. In the dream I am on the ground,
staring up, letting you mash me down.
I dream of you as to say
that I know I will always be running,
as to say I know I can’t pull the final string;
can’t run from my own scrap of shadow,
always floating just behind the watery pools of sun.

Cinnamon Cigarillos

It’s Sunday and the rain isn’t letting
anyone rest. I’m sucking
a cigarette’s secondhand smoke in
like the wafting promise of a well-cooked
dinner, and you’re holding a notebook paper
up to the sun. In six minutes, I could be
unlacing your shoelaces, but I couldn’t
be telling you, finally in a poem worth reading,
how it is to try and trace your body into words.
In six minutes, I can write nothing
or almost nothing worthwhile.
In six minutes, I can at least regret
not writing the poem.
Through the open door I’m sucking in
every breath of you, and you’re kissing
this body down. We’re pressing the whole
of us against the glass garden-door.
What do we care if someone is to see us?
What fault is ours if someone looks in?
There is nothing to see here, just practice,
just penmanship shifting or shaping —
just two sets of bone sucking marrow
from the paper’s bend.


Kara Goughnour is a writer and documentarian living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the author of “Mixed Tapes,” a part of the Ghost City Press Summer 2019 Micro-Chap Series. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award, and have work published or forthcoming in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Third Point Press, and over fifty others. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @kara_goughnour or read their collected and exclusive works at karagoughnour.com.

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