How to Make a Palimpsest
by Katherine Durham Oldmixon

before it was a metaphor

First scrape fat from skin,
turn to sun what never felt light,
in vitriol bathe open wounds,
sear to yellow the inner vellum
until flesh and hair no longer seem animal matter.
Some fold quarto, others folio;
make flocks of pages to lay in wait.

Sharpen a feather,
dip the shaft in iron gall.
Write angel-pin philosophy,
the brewer’s daily tabs,
a festal grocery list, poems
and psalms for a choir gathered to praise
God. Until you think, no more:

Take a knife to dead hymns,
rub out names, erase histories,
cut leaves to strips, use them within
other spines, wood or bone shells.
So buried is living in the skeletons
and tissues we open on velvet cradles.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 4.

Katherine Durham Oldmixon lives in Austin, TX, where she teaches writing and literature and directs the writing program at historic Huston-Tillotson University. She is co-director of the Poetry at Round Top Festival and a senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Her poems appear online in Qarrtsiluni, Poemeleon, and Solstice magazines, as well as in many print journals and anthologies and in her chapbook Water Signs (Finishing Line Press, 2009).

See all items about Katherine Durham Oldmixon

Visit Katherine Durham Oldmixon’s contributors page.

Leave a Reply