Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, HOBART, Levee Magazine, Portland Review, and the anthologies Pennsylvania’s Best Emerging Poets, Crack the Spine, and more. A Best of the Net nominee, she currently lives in Pennsylvania where she writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University, and co-curated the MadFridays Reading Series. Find her online at www.karaknickerbocker.com and Twitter @karaknick.
A Study on Descending
forget about dying, if there’s another way around living,
I want to know about it. Today, walking by the lake, I saw
a patch of solid white floating on the surface of the water,
nearly cradling the shore. Warmer winds have softened
the weekend’s frost, turned rivers where there were none.
I thought perhaps a lone block of ice, this boat of stubborn snow.
But when I got closer, it was an upturned belly. I saw the dark wings,
spread like a quiet surrender, the yellowed hook beak, soft neck turned
away from me, one closed eye toward the mountain. Jon tells me
it is a seabird, a cormorant. That they usually aren’t found this close
to here. When I return to the cabin, I look them up online. Cormorants
can live for up to 25 years, I learn, and are expert divers. I imagine
their half-jump, a graceful plunge, piercing the water, perfect.
25 is the age for humans where, supposedly, everything is at its peak.
But I remember myself then, a quarter’s worth of years, how shaky
I stood at the top of a parking garage, held my hands open in prayer.
I couldn’t trust my balance, poised poorer than the dropped pennies
on the stomach of the concrete sidewalk below my melting feet.
I too, wondered what costs had flown me to this place if I didn’t belong,
wondered, eyes wet with questions, if I would ever live to tell.