Kary Wayson

The Lives of Artists


I’m a nuisance on my route, an imposition

in the alleyway, just past the house of
shared custody: glass clock in the window like a ticking
terrarium. I manage like a mother
with a daughter who looks just like her father
and I am almost up to here

where once, in an alcove
of myself, I lingered in a stand of birches. Here
my mind gets shy
as if I’d asked my daughter to say hello
to a stranger. I don’t have a daughter. But crossing the street,
I jerk her little arm.

There is a joy in talking through an open window with a friend

on the sidewalk below. My mother understood it, with her
underwater tea parties on the bottom of the swimming pool.

Map for me my walking route and I will walking go.

It is new to be beautiful

and unseemly to say so. I manage
many paintings of the same Catholic saints, each
family holy according to another —
and then we get to the Caravaggio.

It’s new to be beautiful
and boring. It’s like counting to two
and turning around
and counting to two again.

But I was good! I was good! I let

the offer lie there like I’d rent
an empty room: the one electrical outlet,
the sink in the corner, the pull-out, the sofa.

I took how many tenants through.

The only clothes I’m wearing now
is the dress on the bed beside me –

And I am to bed like the station to the train:

to the bed headed
by the street below it. I mean
I am the station. There is the train
like a river
deranged by colors of cargo.

I go to the river
to read red books
and reason —

I sit with the sky. I go for a walk
to visit this direction:
really there’s no need to rhyme.



“The Lives of Artists” was previously published in Crazyhorse, and the winner of the Linda Hull Memorial Prize, selected by James Tate.


Kary Wayson’s poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Poetry Northwest, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Nation, The Journal, FIELD, Filter, The Best American Poetry 2007, and the 2010 Pushcart Prize anthology. Kary was a 2003 Discovery/The Nation award winner, and her chapbook, Dog & Me, was published in 2004 by LitRag Press. Her first full collection, American Husband, won the Ohio State University Press/ The Journal Award in 2009. Kary lives and works in Seattle.