Kathryn Stripling Byer Click to

Kathryn Stripling Byer has published six books of poetry, including The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (Texas Tech U. Press, AWP Award Series, 1986), Wildwood Flower (LSU, 1992) and Descent (LSU, 2012).  Her poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in newspapers and journals ranging from Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage.  She was the 2007 recipient of the Hanes Award in Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and has served as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate.  Her most recent collection is Descent (LSU, 2012). She lives in Cullowhee, N. C., surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

the world I saw after he pulled me up
onto the saddle  so pretty
I whispered into his backbone,
the taste of his sweat through the rough
of his shirt,  on my tongue
pretty snatches of lovesong and
doe-si-do, as the laurels sprayed
down on us sweet creamy
petals and overhead blue china
saucers on which the clouds
floated. Clotted cream, I would

serve wedding guests such
a fine sweetness they’d never again
doubt my true love. Nor ever again
caution rectitude.  I’d cast my bouquet
so far not a girl in the county
could catch it. Such a fine day
as higher we climbed
the leaves churning with wind

while into his back I breathe
When.  And he answers soon,
oh soon, as we sink into swirling
shade, pink ladyslippers strewn
over the banks, and fairy wands
trailside  when suddenly, witch-hobble
snaring my skirt, he turns to me,
pulling the combs from my hair,
ripping my pearl buttoned blouse
to my waist, his tongue on my
neck, forcing my mouth open wide,
my stays ripping apart,
soon, oh soon I hear him
moaning, even as over my face
I feel  dirt falling, hear the trot of his horse
leaving as I keep trying to call out to him
cupping my heartsblood,
Take it,
take it,
this love that lies
bleeding into my hands.