Poetry: PASS WITH CARE by Sophie Klahr

A delicate sonnet cycle, Sophie Klahr’s “PASS WITH CARE” trembles lightly as an inviting hand, stuck out the rolled down window of her car. Here is a road trip so softly lonely that you can’t help but want to hop in.


            for /after Walt Whitman

Pass with care says the road     says     do not pass    
Every photograph I take of ruins
is with you in mind       Agony   orchard
+gasoline comfort           Seeking some being
in these arced hours   No other cars mirage
to punctuate fences beyond fences
long syllables of wires or their absence
Any living creatures beside cattle
   “I but use you for a minute, then I
resign you, stallion”               The CD skipping
   “What / What / What is less or more than a touch”
A kind of marginalia to the land
+that I listen to over and over
Can I say how empty this country seems


Can I say how empty this country seems
+Land struck   Twisted fertility needs time
for its soul to catch up to its body
+and I am complicit     There:   horseheads of
pumpjacks nod bleak nods over the oil fields
Beaks heavy in the stripped miles   I struggle
This country empty of us and porous
+and beloved and how I’ve neglected
the sky in what I have tried to tell you

+Let me tell you   By god   it was so blue

The wind moves like an animal inside
the grass beyond my wheel   I don’t know if
I understand how to see myself home
but I’ve gathered all these pieces to me


So, I’ve gathered all these pieces to me
like bones that might have breath leaned back into
each length     On the dashboard: eucalyptus
+seashells     stones         I do want to have a home
It snowed in the town where I woke today
but I still haven’t seen the rain in months
and the earth mutters on     holding itself
erosion the origin of sweet talk

I’d like to report “I will put Chaos
   into fourteen lines”   I’d like to report
passing No Whiners Diner in Roswell
+cattycorner from The Caverns Motel

Can you hear me? I say into the phone
+How often   this question means giving up


How often this question means giving up

I ask a lover if they will write me
once I arrive in ________       I won’t   they say
++that’s just not the kind of person I am

A woman is even more a woman
when she sleeps alone and even more so
in a bed not her own     (I think often
++++++of being chopped into little pieces)
I am weary with being a woman
so clearly a woman   woman seeing
America   white Jewish sober queer
woman seeing America   O     I
met my 5 year old trans cousin last week
He knew himself so well it made me weep


He knew himself so well it made me weep
+or was it me that I was weeping for

In the shade of a rest stop, a trucker
and I standing on the pavilion watch
as the fenced land it seems we have each been
staring into is split by a line of
+++dogs       After the fourth it no longer seems
like a dream   dogs glimpsed beyond the barbed wire
becoming fact   The trucker wears a hat
bearing the name of who he believed would
make America Great Again   Seeing
the dogs   we turn to one another strange
awe making us light   at least this we shared
++It’s not something I would want to forget


It’s not something I would want to forget
I lift a wounded snake from a dirt road
I have always loved believing I could
save things until the spring I trapped raccoons
+two kits   one hurt by being tangled in
tarp strings I spent all afternoon cutting
away from its body   Set the kits up
in a live trap for their mother’s entry
+the point was to keep them a family…

Three nights she came to take them from the cage
A fault in the latch kept     shutting her out
+she tried     piss fur flesh ripped    she left a trail

It fills me with shame to say this   and still
it’s a story I have to do justice


It’s a story I have to do justice
+there was a badger hole beside the house
I saw my hair woven into a nest
+behind the lath   a wind slammed the door hard
++then opened it  quiet as a mother
petals of an altar’s yellow roses
like chiggers that lit up beneath my skin
+whenever I ran     The memory was that
of someone fleeing       I’ve not said I want
to be alone   I’d like a passenger
Perhaps you have become my passenger
by reading   my worn car’s door flung open
and here   I will leave it open   for you.
Do not pass says the road     Pass with care the road says




Sophie Klahr

Sophie Klahr is the author of Meet Me Here At Dawn (YesYes Books, 2016). Her poetry appears The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and other publications. Originally a dancer, her interdisciplinary work includes creating scenic texts for theatre and choreography for performance works. She has no permanent address. sophieklahr.com

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