Sonnets from I Wanna Destroy You

by Kathleen Winter

The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave

Told she’s dead, we thought it was a joke.
Nobody died young then—the empire
on hold. Our canines growing in
to match our egos. She’d left her violent
husband behind; I still had mine.
In L.A. she’d been playing
auditoriums, iconic bars. Broke,
still at the bookstore, my nerves were wire.
Fishnet Prufrock, how could I begin?
She’d made her talent pay the rent
but I was stalled & tuneless, blind
to beauty, focused on some gaping
craters in the drywall, from his hand.
(Even fury starting to look bland.)




Pink Turns To Blue

Even fury starting to look bland,
I left him, after more than one false start.
All I kept, two costume hearts:
Niagara falling from a thin brass band
& a rhinestone broach he stole from his
mother at Christmas. He had to give back
all her other jewels. The lack
of honesty, taste, in that business
should have turned me hard, except
I loved something about his tongue, his brain—
struggle to recall. Some puzzled grace
in green eyes, tenderness contained.
Soon enough, his sparkle was erased
by futile efforts to be tough, adept.




Precision Auto

His futile efforts to be tough, adept,
got him night-shift at a convenience store.
He hawked Slim Jims, cigarettes, & swept
black & white linoleum before
he caught the 5:14 back to our flat.
We’d overlap a few short hours
on a mattress on the floor, an agate-
eyed, petulant tabby gouging tours
across our throats at dawn. Car alarms
on Huntington went off like clockwork.
Griefs we gave ourselves were worse than harms
our neighborhood supplied, though some poor jerk
stole our Corolla. We stole it back
from the project’s lot, fueled by a fifth of Jack.




Wave of Mutilation

From the project’s lot, fueled by a fifth of Jack,
god knows what graveyards we got into:
Boston’s corpus sprawling thickly sown,
the North End’s Puritan tabs & moderns
& the military’s myriad teeth:
gravestones sprout to flip myth upside down.
My man was all for death’s erotic track
till morning sickness brought a view
of suburbs we’d fled from— minor terrors,
endless dull concerns
of raising kids on paltry funds, relief
too mean, the two of us half-grown.
I was clear about our family’s chance:
crept home from the clinic while he danced.





Five Stop Mother Superior Rain

Home from the clinic while he danced,
I wondered who’d come to know
or give a fuck about it. Kept
religiously for years, the secret was a blow
to Sara when I finally told her, but
she hated it for love of me, not
for faith, not to shore up some dry-
rot shrine to patriarchy.
His folks were different, his mom a fan
of Christian verses. The local fundamentalist
was her boss, church a Leviathan
of antebellum glare. The Pentecost
descended there each Sunday to counter
the college on the corner.

KATHLEEN WINTER is the author of I will not kick my friends (2018), winner of the Elixir Poetry Prize, and Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, which won the Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Memorial Award. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, New Statesman, Agni, Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner and Poetry London. She was granted fellowships by Sewanee Writers’ Conference, James Merrill House, Dora Maar House, Cill Rialaig Project, and Vermont Studio Center. Her awards include the Poetry Society of America The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award, and the Ralph Johnston Fellowship at University of Texas’s Dobie Paisano Ranch.