Karen Kubin

by Karen Bjork Kubin

Next year I will be a mouse.
She squeezed my hand tighter.
The school year was almost over
and that day she had let two other children
pick the rhinestones off her favorite pair of jeans,

amazed at how each small bold sparkle
lost its hold to the scrape of a fingernail.
Her stomach was a constant gnawing.
I protested, but
she was sure.

Slowly that summer her eyes widened,
irises blackened.
You could only see the fur in certain lights,
and only if you looked,
but it was there—fine, silky, pewter.

Her ears thinned and pinked,
cupped themselves.
She curled into hoodies,
pulled the sleeves around over her hands
to make paws.

Her movements quickened,
shadow-like, peripheral,
when she wasn’t still as a smooth gray pebble,
alert to those
who could sense her difference.

Her difference.
She does not know her strength.
I imagine the next shift:
sparkling green serpent,
lithe slow loris, Pegasus—soaring.

At night I read her stories,
tuck invisible names under her pillow like prayers:
Siren, dryad, chimera. Phoenix. Valkyrie.
I picture her unfurling to full stature,
her eyes gleaming tanzanite.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 1.

Karen KubinA violinist by training, Karen Bjork Kubin has been exploring the tensions and connections between music and language for as long as she can remember. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spillway, Whale Road Review, Rock & Sling, Ruminate, and Relief, as well as several anthologies.

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