Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Kelli Russell Agodon





Some Winters Never End

In middle school a guy said,
Do you give it? when he saw
the cover of my tennis racket.
Give what? I asked. Head.
Later walking to class I asked
a friend what he meant. She snapped
off an icicle and licked her lips,
slipped what is frozen into her
mouth, back and forth, ran her tongue
to the base. It’s easy and it won’t be
so sharp, so cold. Sensual education.
That year the snow seemed to go
on for months, the icicles like spears
aimed at me, near every place I wanted
to stand. What melts can’t be dangerous.
What you lick, can’t hurt you.
Several winters later in a cold
back bedroom, the guy from our school
pressed her against the bed, ripped
her button-down shirt, poured
a wine cooler into her mouth, if you don’t
suck it, if you don’t… And outside,
the icicles were no longer a choice and
she learned some winters never end.
Years later, during a snowstorm
in bed with my husband, I pull down
the covers, run my tongue across his thigh,
his skin warm and nowhere close
to the color of ice, the sound of snow
cracking on our roof, a storm thawing,
I think about her as I open my mouth.


With Your Hands Against My Waist,
   It’s Hard to Remember All the Times I’ve Failed

You’ve probably heard all the times
the park benches were filled with men
or pigeons, filled with people who stop
to kiss the skin of someone they love or want,
     so many times we wish to rest during a day,
     pivot to something else, turn our bodies away
     from what we know or don’t—like the dream
     I had where I stumbled into a field of sunflowers
wearing only a slip and you said I was dancing,
falling or failing, just one letter off—
a celebration or a suitcase of faults I carry
until I realize it’s easier to undress than to futuretrip,
     it’s easier to respond with a thumbs-up, press
     rewind again and again to watch the video
     of a friend and hear the way he almost sounds
     like the wind, if the shadows that warmed me
had a sound they’d be the red wine I drink, how
someone told me in Irish there’s no word for love,
but one way to say it is, You are my music, so
I listen, until all the sunflowers have been put to bed.


Heartrending Waltz with Social Media

For a moment I read it as heart-trending
     as if our humanness was beating
     across Facebook feeds and on the inside

we were sorrow with a Twitter account,
     we were typing our pain in 280 characters,
     Just want to disappear, wish I had

someone to talk to. And no one answers. And
     someone responds. Sorry. Heartrending.
     Heart trending. And so we send

our sadness electronically like how I used to
     send prayers to the stars as if God
     was mixed up between the constellations

looking down at me and sparkling, and maybe
     if God is in each of us, we’ve just found
     a more precise way to connect, hashtag

prayers, hashtag God, #Imallalonehere, which
     is misread as I mall a lone here, and no one
     responds, the cursor blinking, a heart

beat on the glowing universe propped
     on our desk, all the pixel stars,
     all the connections almost on our fingers.


Photograph of Kelli Russell Agodon by Ronda Piszk Broatch.

Kelli Russell Agodon’s fourth collection of poems, Dialogues with Rising Tides, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press as well as the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women. Agodon lives in a sleepy seaside town in Washington State where she is an avid paddleboarder and hiker. More from this author →