Poetry » Kathleen Hellen »


Dear Dante

At eight, I had no care for your romantic
theology, no thought of how you might
interpret Heaven. At the May Day celebration
it was a wayward glance, not the key to your salvation—
but you persisted, wept like a child, even though you knew
I was betrothed. That I acknowledged your existence
was a courtesy of neighbors. My beauty from afar
unattainable. I spurned you at the wedding.
Your “Lady of the Salutation” flirting with your
obvious humiliation. Even when ignored, your
burning heart mistook my pity for an interest.
Your face divulged the agony you could not bear
to see. You did not know me. I was not your “Bice”—
your “Gentilissima.” What virtue in this rare
obsession? Your affection, misguided as it was,
hopelessly distorted, was a vehicle for your
poetic vision.

Habits on Knees Like Praying

the noir of fisting, hints
of the sadistic, he’d asked the priests

No Pink Of My John
No Jump Up And Kiss Me

The dark beards shrinking in his window box
across the street from Frankincense not mirth

He lived in the cathedral of his nunnery
never used a washcloth twice

though lots of guys wore pink, though garments
might become him  What
longing for a strong cologne drank from his brimming,

after censure’s hinted sin between the lion and ox,
the eagle that was John. The angels

saying grace like the peasant in the painting at his table
O, the sorrow of this bread. Kyrie—he said it