Kristina Martino


I never regressed so much, / I never perfected / my recollections

with madness, / I never / invested in such / a good dagger. / Of the attack,

I never had a knack / for lessening the blow. / I never


believed in the augur’s / low tactical palm-thrusted / tut-tuts.

Nor the church’s girth. / It doesn’t matter. / I’ll never dodge / the here-

after. / I’m not / here / much longer. / I’ll be / re-


conquered. / Of the living and the dead, / I’ve been mongrel-

haggard / but never madder / than a punched pillow, near-punched mirror,

hapless screams. / I am a woman who should shatter /


or so / those with their looking glasses should think, / I should

think. / But, well, I never. / I never sought to make marauder and monarch

synonymous, never got so conglomerate with lawlessness,


never felt intolerably autonomous nor acrimonious with self-made

luck / or ceremonious reign-and-fall, / never got mind-fucked by the face

powder of power. / I’ve always / been small. / I’ve always


been appalled at the applause after my dress rehearsal, after the gall

of gall when one says All told, Exeunt, or Halt! / I half-picked / the ultimate

vault. / I’m still here. / Fin! Fin! (a cin-cin to the end, cheery


in drear, my dear.) / But I’ve not faltered by way of the bane of a blood-

stain, / the bled like hand-held alarm-bells compelling the bulk of the digits

to resist themselves, to desist their very mind and body. /


Never embedded such a glitch in my system / as to be a happy person.

But / I’m just / as joyous / as such. / Flourish. Flourish. / I refurbish the lavish

cloud loud within me with a heave-ho only I can hear, / feel.


How fair-foul a vow as fanfare to the ear, / this being here. / Freer

than air with a deadweight peal / with a tearstain purity, / the trumpet

intensive (intensest with two bells to the eardrum and

a snare) makes this most imprisonable blare, / a crass brass so /

unbirdlike / when coiled human tongues heighten the brute near-farness

of all things earthen, blurt-driven, life-deathening, a silence


a silence turned bright and ashen harkens—an announcement!—some-

one’s here! / Something’s here! / With a brow-tiered anticipation, / the very air

is elevated to a ghost-voice with an open gate. / You await /

the reveal—we love a veil—an appearance both revered and feared. /

The sheer leer of the puppeteer behind her string station, her drowning

jeer, her elation and lucid motions, / lake-like, / eye-like, /

listless and clear as a glass veneer / but jerky: / this is what we see, this

is what we feel. / But I’m just / the messenger, / sans angel, / the deliverer

of plot, of pleas, red flag, white flag, surrenderer of / lines…

lines where a lie could lay, / a humbug or a whole or half-truth / a loose

version, / a truce or an excuse con brio, or brief: a death sentence, a pardon. /

In them could be a place holder for thy kingdom to come. /

The aftertaste is a divine rite. / To say: Thy kingdom’s come. Come

and claim it. / I could spark the harem of a battle hymn where everybody

sings, / where everybody still in-ex-haling joins in. / I could

ring / the end of war in / if it’s in the cards, / if it’s in the books, / or

the vaunting livid-billowing machine of the pre-gifted albeit / blur-laden future,

quick in gain. Quick: The future’s gaining, ragged with rapture,

binoculared in circular clear muddle: beginning / middle / middle/ middle

(the melody’s here) (the calamity’s here) middle / middle / middle / in and out

of focus until the tomb enters, and resumes, resumes, resumes.

Or if it’s in the rooster’s claim to morning, I could claim the peace day’s calm

enclosure. / Enter Song. / The song makes its singers beatific evacuees, guests

of its breath. / They enter into it / It exits / lent gaps / structured

gasps / from the flapping vent of the lips, what’s heard exhibits a sashay /

a pause / a slash / a slash / (such is the art of the attack). A certain insignia can

make you an outcast / but breath redraws itself into a deft vapor,


into the cool air, into a plume of air, into the breadth of a single brethren.

If one listens in asylum with other f/ears sometimes all that’s left is nondescript:

a dog whistle pitch wherein wordless feelings run adrift like a


rhythm that doesn’t exist. Peak season for fluff. Still you seek it. Still you

seek what seeks you: in mind: the role: she-wolf in violent seizure: prey vetted

via incisors, incisors as scrimitar / a scrimmage / (step back: a


pretty image) / felt fervently / but / pitted in indecision / but / in voice:

only half/delivered / slit / slit / and the vision is scissored. / This is the life of

the messenger: a lessor conveyor, par force, than the original

source. I repeat the message I’m given. I repeat the message I’m given. /

Yet what is the original source when, due course, I change the script? I never

really said it. That which makes me slick in itch, content with mere

existence. I never regaled the fidget, bifurcating in the background, half

harness, half I’m-here-ness/ which is always a lesson in lessness / this being

here / these losses / (fiat lux) (fiat lux) / Not an impetus, not a pox /

not a box (but it is a box) / I never really knew the word for it. / That which

makes me tick / that which makes me tick. / I never made a missive / so illicit /

as to say I want it: life with death, the decadence thereof. It’s not


a letdown (the leveler), not a lip sync of the suck from tit to mouth / but /

it’s sustenance, an osseous need. Is it not a zest to insist the obvious? I cannot

be queen. I cannot be golden-crowned and lace-choked. I can be


replaced. / I can be replaced. / I am commonplace / defaced by default

and faulted. / I have faltered, made my mark as hiccupy as a hoofprint in sand.

It’s insubstantial / stand-offish / unembossed / windswept. /


All is a-toll / but no tocsin, no ring chase. Should my heartbeat be breached

by a bellwether, who can tell me? / This frippery equipoise / it’s chosen not

stolen / it’s posed in the precursor, the lure before the kill.


The lure before the (this is my living will) tripwire / I repeat: I never

made so liturgical the point of no return / never let such light heighten my eyes with

embellished burn / never yearned to fear the lord / nor heed


the kill-joy of the seer / but Dear sirs: I’m still quite damned. / My soul

will never learn to haunt another (death toll: one) soul but itself: / ghost with

a safety belt, to be petulant / to be fey as an infrared or an x-ray


splaying into the next phase: All revelers / all fools / ruled and overruled

by time lined by the next scene / then the next-next scene: the main characters /

all fools / try to elongate life in lifelong fashion. / The prologue pits


the main problem / (the conquistadors never hide in the chorus): /

Welcome to my pre-scripted song-as-scroll as it recalibrates the circadian rhythm

with a stake in the heart—where, when—lickety split!


It’s all said, it’s all done. The rhetoric didn’t / doesn’t / stick. /

Redeemer, where are you? / Incarnate or flesh, I could care not. I’m hot with

it. / This treasonous seasoned need not to escape my allotted


seat. Hardly a highland, here. A halation, a cross-out, each line:

no halo. / All stochastic clot dropped into a dot dot dot…Life is all / other. But all

are welcome. (Trapped.) Welcome. (Step back.) Welcome to


the world that will seek to weed you out. (Blast force / wordless riot

of the final act.) / The mind, rather, with its infinite marginalia, is fated to make

a maelstrom of what the body does. It Invocates / divulges / deluges /


misfires its fiery influence. The maelstrom makes its own momento mori /

heady with histrionic Hail. Hail. Hail. / Blustery / rapt / interrogatory as the wind in

tornado or war / either way, I’m torn. / I’m tackled by a terror:


to tear or to tear/ to fare and to be fair / (re-fanfare in the clear air /

error / heir to over-bearings) / to bare or to bear them / threadbare / to be barren /

snare or be ensnared / pare and be paired with: a dare or despair /


the thoroughfare leads to somewhere and nowhere / but which way

to get there / an elsewhere / warfare or prayer/ all to pale while impaled: this is

normal everyday terror. When it seizes, its blare dematerializes


any ecclesiastical inclinations like earth-clockwork. / Dear skull-in-hand,

please hold me / trundled, entombed. / Dear heirloom, you are not a crown.

You are not so golden-wared or rare. / Dear mind, step back


and let me remind you: you are in a mind: you are in a mind but not

mine: this is my living will: coddled / conciliatory / entremored / tickled with trepid

ease: this fortress between keeping in and keeping out, a quietus


and a spout / insatiable as a bastion / my castle’s crenellations /

do they make me safer? / The grey in marble curses the pearl / whirls inward yet /

the material’s always rough around the edges / undefined


as finery to the sun-blind and to the blind. / I never regressed

enough. I’ve never made a definition of man by subtracting woman, never been so

behooven to the divine rite / of the diviner’s first rib. / Never been


so residual an empress / never been an empress / ritual and miraculous /

instead a mere dividend of forgettable sex / wedded to the devil-sent / heaven-lent

neutral ring of my birth. / Of my death, I haven’t rehearsed yet.


In the end scene, all I want is a horse to enter the forest. No encoded

scriptures / no crypt / no mourners / no remorse. This is my will living as if it were

rich enough to be amorphous. / Dear skull-in-head, please

dispel me                                                       /(no climax until after the fact)/


Bellowing bell / echo / eggshell /

The quelled wind                       of the palanquin


I’m not saddled to such Imperial travel


I’ve always had a reverence for hoofbeats

but their beat has a heat which must repeat,

a remembrancer as bittersweet as riding your battered horse after battle.


I never let the guilt get rootbound,                      slow ricochet

spilt spiral piling                                       then a building up of a staying in place.


It’s only when the performance has a pulse

that I have a pulse.                                                                      Or close.

Liken it to a romancing lull or a living kill

either way                 a blight is bequeathed to the lullaby.


Goodbye. This is a matter of interpretation. / My grey stem / My diadem /

Farewell to:


These lines premeditated:

Fit-tongued and tongue-fit:


To be not a woman: but a weather system:

   Perfect storm, eye of death:


But ah heck.

    I’m still young yet.

KRISTINA MARTINO is a poet and visual artist. She studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Some of her poems have appeared in Third Coast, Bennington Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. Some of her drawings can be viewed here: