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Athena Kildegaard

The Cloud Saint

slipped in and out
of continuity,
waxed hot then cold,
waned on the liminal between horizon and sky.

Clever wives' sayings 
account for her miracles:
mares' tails red skies warning.

Now clipper now pennant
now flagon amoeba cormorant
sewing machine vertebrae cock sponge
now rake stallion fork 
now bollweevil butterfly salamander
hacksaw cormorant again rake again flagon

Now accountant's finger
dancing between columns,
susceptible to hot air,
neither brave nor wallflower,

now the alchemist's flub.

The Saint of Kisses

knew secret places:
cellar stair, cold storage,
empty cistern, spidered corner.

Knew the pantry,
last year's chutney, marmalade, pickled rind,
#10 cans of tomatoes stacked blue yellow red 
like the flags of salty empires.

The saint of kisses knew attic dormer,
ghosts, young lovers clandestine,
cracked panes sealed black by electric tape,
elders rummaging for memory,
sad pouts of dust.

Knew the pump shed
cobwebbed and dank,
lewd at the back.

The saint smelled of abandoned places
cedar, dust mite, lavender, mortar.

We lined the streets to see her off,
couldn't believe our eyes,
how beautiful she was, luminous,
as if she were nowhere, anywhere.

The Poppies

The goddess who was pulled from the soil
refused to leave completely her dark womb.
It was an act of fear. For to stay rooted
was to refuse death.
But she opened her eyes,
one, a hundred, tender as lids
beneath copper coins, and she could not help
but see her error.

The Roses

a dozen gods laughing,


The Tulips

Cups of wine and honey, ambrosia,
and inside, floating as they did once
when they were sand or ash,
three black pearls, eyes of the blind seer
who turned his back to the waves
and shouted as he floated off-
though no one could hear-
Forget all that I have said!


          -from Ventriloquy, Tinderbox Editions (2017), selected by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

BIO: Athena Kildegaard lives in prairie pothole country—that is, Morris, Minnesota—where she’s a lecturer at the University of Minnesota.


PROMPT: This one should be FUN! Go out in nature, walk around your home, spy something inanimate from your bed first thing when you wake up tomorrow and animate that object, as Athena Kildegaard does in these wonderfully imaginative persona poems. You could pick a flower like Kildegaard, a car, a speck of dust, a book...anything you want. Imagine you are that object and what you would have to say if you could speak, just once (and never again!), in the form of verse. Like Kildegaard, these poems might be as dark as, at times, they are light. Keep these "animation poems" as short as possible and enjoy!

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