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Sick pastoral: a sick ecology poem

By Kay Ulanday Barrett

For Geleni Fontaine and Bilen Berhanu

Then how does candy spill? This way? Stare at the sky
as the MyChart results record blood levels. Peach laden,
cherry lacquer, lilac blossom marathon more at a window
sill on any almost-evening in... what month is it? When
statistics splay, when the masks are forgotten, there'll be
more of us we'll have to teach: catheters are ivy, monstera
fenestration consoles when you're on hold with the pharmacy
again. You grow impatient. Breath boasts spasm spontaneity
in apricot colored view. Skin scales, skin fails, fish gut
gratuitous inflammation. Or how about the hippo rhinoceros
hybrid unfurling knuckles into your neck? Yes, your dog will
curl into the canyon of your shoulder. No doubt, your cat can
scale the ridge of your couch, overlooking a lakefront of
laundry. When do you teleport to your mother's palm softness
for a dizzy haven? That must be your default place, huh?
Do train tracks thrum aura into a yawp caw? Are you the
wolf howling gut punch,  scurrying to the toilet?  Or
are you just the toilet? Is it kidneys? Again? And what
of your river bend back? And what of blood rains from
your second or fourth surgery? That was totally jupiter
harpooning into saturn rings and now, there's leopard print
welts on your abdomen. Is your body the costume or are you
just an impersonator, unhuman? Sometimes forceps are
rotten tulips. Actually, sometimes it feels like you are the
dead bouquet just kept around from a good occasion.
Oh, sweet memory. Oh, dehydration of the moment.
Storm aftermath abandoned. You breathe a fleet
of weeps or cumulus cascade depending on the day.
How you lily pad from one scowl to another missed meal.
Speaking of frogs, is your skin still inflamed? How you rain
drop, how you quietly pebble, how you can evaporate
as thin as air. High pain might not be cosmology but
Oh my kindred— oh how you end up seeing all
the stars anyway.



Listen as Kay Ulanday Barrett readsSick pastoral: a sick ecology poem.”

Added: Tuesday, April 4, 2023  /  Used with permission.
Kay Ulanday Barrett

Kay Ulanday Barrett is a poet, essayist, cultural strategist, and A+ napper. They are the winner of the 2022 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry by Foundation for Contemporary Arts. They have been awarded residencies from Tin House, James Baldwin Fellowship at MacDowell, Baldwin for the Arts Fellowship, and Millay Arts. Their second book, More Than Organs (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020), received a 2021 Stonewall Honor Book Award by the American Library Association and is a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. They have featured at The United Nations, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Lincoln Center, The Whitney Museum, The School of the Art Institute, The Hemispheric Institute, Symphony Space, Brooklyn Museum, and more. Their contributions are found in The New York Times, Academy of American Poets, Literary Hub, Vogue, Poetry Unbound, The Advocate, The Rumpus, NYLON, them, Al Jazeera, & more. Visit their website or @brownroundboi on Instagram.

Image Description: Kay Ulanday Barrett, a brown, round queer with short black hair, performs at a microphone with transgender and rainbow flags in the background. They wear a gray blazer and glasses.

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