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Reading “Woman with Amputated Breast at her Mother-in-Law's Grave” by Katie Farris



Poetry Lunch S3E8

Reading “Woman with Amputated Breast at her Mother-in-Law’s Grave” by Katie Farris from Standing in the Forest of Being Alive, published by Alice James Books.


It was the crouching tiger and the image of sticking one’s head in its mouth that caught me first in this poem, brought me back, and kept this book on the top of my many stacks. But with this reading it’s the door to the grave that got me in further.

The door that’s stated at the beginning, but doesn’t open till the end. I think it needed the poem to be able to open — I feel the poem pushing at that door to the grave as it moves from line to line, wondering wide and coming back in tight to the details of daily life.

Opening is one of the greatest things poetry does for me. Grief opens you too, and I think that’s one of the reasons grief and poetry keep each others company so well. But gosh it’s hard to stay open, isn’t it? I love the reminders in this poem of the everyday-ness of death, that we eat despite, and forget and forgive; the long forgotten turkey in the freezer, the lamb in the deli drawer still fresh. It makes me think of the suddenness of death no matter when it happened. It can be years back and a memory is still able to bring you as alert to the moment as your head in a tiger’s mouth. I remember how time stopped when my older brother died. In certain ways it never started again. Something else started.

And continues. Thanks to Hanif Abdurraqib for the photo with this book on his desk that reminded me I was interested when I saw it at AWP with no free hand to pick it up; and thanks Katie for the steadfast clarity in your poems.


Links to purchase

Get the book here: Standing in the Forest of Being Alive.