Kathleen Hellen

Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review; Frogpond; Hawai’i Review; Japanophile; Kartika Review; Lantern Review; Mythium; Natural Bridge; Nimrod; Pirene’s Fountain; Platte Valley Review; Poetry International; Prairie Schooner; Southern California Review; and Witness, among others; and on WYPR’s “The Signal.” She is senior editor for The Baltimore Review.


In this earthly garden

jay is sometimes hawk
sometimes rusty pump

calling. I am trying to find you

in that hide and seek we do
in which we both are hiding
You, sometimes haughty,
sometimes in your hiddenness, aloof

sometimes scolding. You—
an attitude, like that bobbing thing uh-huh
the lilies do. Like the leaves of
the dracaena waving see-you-later, baby

I was stupid over you
A croton clowning
changing colors up my sleeve to please
the winds in you. I was red I was blue,
hiding my true nature.

I was wandering jew. Trailing
stem and patient as grass
A shadow on the sun-dial of your
bright location

if only I had asked, even if doubtful
Come out, come out


Who, Me?

Not in white paste flecked with lead
but equally geisha. The wearer’s death

pretending to be flesh. A mask
for the kabuki, affected for the theater

of sorrows. Several husbands gone, fewer friends.
Even children, groomed to never know me,
if they ever knew the nature I repair—

spotted, lined with care— they wouldn’t recognize me.
None have ever penetrated to the skin the nape surrenders 

in the rare accident of costume. A cover-up
judged as the foundation to a bare existence.
Base, yes. The essence

of the image of myself reflected in this dressing
room of mirrors. A triptych of pretense
Of concealments

The winter perfume of a doubt


Nanking is my mother

In self, those who are alive and dead
—from the Chandogya Upanishad

What does she want?
A daughter
to her back
that furious hump?

Pointing to her lips
without the saying
Whisper of a foreign tongue

Cane that coughs a thumping
Should I offer?
On a sidewalk on a street
near the Medicine Shop

She shoves a crumpled dollar
for the trouble that she is
or she is not. The sun 

purpling hot
The bus the bus about to stop