Issue > Poetry
Kara Van De Graaf

Kara Van De Graaf

Kara van de Graaf is the author of Spitting Image, winner of the Crab Orchard First Book Award in Poetry (SIU Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in New England Review, AGNI, The Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Best New Poets and elsewhere. She is co-founder of Lightbox Poetry, an online educational resource for students and teachers of poetry. Currently, she serves as Assistant Professor of English at Utah Valley University. She lives in Salt Lake City.

Bad Want

I stand in my new kitchen,
my figure a soft blur against monochrome steel,

and I lick burnt sugar
from a spoon.
                    I don't allow myself much

that is sweet anymore.
Every day I wake and train

to a schedule because I believe
my body can predict it, will purr

against its rigidity.
                     I want
to preserve you, body, save you

from yourself and all the bad
want you let stir within me—

the stain of caramel on my teeth, drowsy pull
of too much sleep, the hips

of an almost-stranger beneath
my ass.
        All my good

              You always win.
Though in the end, it is really

you who I need.
who will carry me to the next world.


For a week after you left me
I became a translucent version
of myself,
                like a silhouette
        glimpsed through
a white shōji door. 

And for a brief blur I let
my eyes cut through
my own center,
                not the organs
        or soft machinery, but deeper
past the ego stitching me

together, past the clean face
I give to all the others,
               into the delicate layers
       of shame and grief, pressed
together like sheets

of paper. A place
I told you I would open
only to you.
the street I watch
a young woman washing dishes

through the window,
stack the clean
plates then hand them
                         to someone
        I can't see. I am sorry.
I cannot give you what I promised.


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