Kate Northrop
March 2009


Kate NorthropKate Northrop’s first collection of poems, Back Through Interruption (Kent State University Press 2002) won the Stan and Tom Wick First Book Award.  Her second collection, Things Are Disappearing Here (Persea Books 2007), was the finalist for the James Laughlin Award and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.  Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The American Poetry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Raritan, and other journals.  She is also the recipient of several fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Walter E. Dakin fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Paumanok Poetry Award, and an American Academy of Poets Prize.   Northrop is Associate Professor in the English department at the University of Wyoming and lives in Laramie.

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The Pond

At first the pond’s a noise, a process:  the huge backhoe, several pick-ups, an October afternoon split then by the men appearing at the far edge of the farm.  They’re a ways off, smoking across the dirt road, but their voices move closer toward us, then ebb away. One of the deepest voices distinguishes itself, rises out of the hum, then contracts, like one odd light in the fringe a town makes, at night, in the valley.

At first it’s a noise, a process: the sun firing itself off the metal of the machines and the sky’s a clean blue, brilliant.  The dogs are locked in the kitchen and the cats curl up under the water heater.  My sister and I read books in the attic that’s been turned years back into a bedroom.  It is a bedroom but it is also still an attic.  Behind the wallpaper, a bright yellow-check, parts of the walls are crumbling.  When we sleep in our beds, we see treetops, night sky.  And we feel there, I think, both monstrous and little.  We feel, in a way I still cannot explain, too available.

Then the pond we’ve never been told of begins one afternoon.  A large gouge from the earth.  Men’s voices.  

Some days later, when we get home from school, it’s been filled in and that night, it’s finished and still, quiet and clean.  But what’s most strange is how the pond seems that it always ought to have been there.  Or rather, that it was always there, breathing calmly, behind what we could know of the world.

And then, when it’s finished, I’ll feel differently at nights, because of the pond.  I’ll feel a kind of clarity, I’ll feel more keenly and appropriately alone.  When I breathe in the dark, trying to sleep, I’ll be aware the pond is also a thing breathing in the dark, a living thing but unlike other living things--trees, the creek--the pond is a still, whole place.  It houses fish, shadows, reeds, snakes

And when I swim there in the afternoon, it will offer a different way of existing in the world: held in and apart, at a distance.  I’ll swim in it, but it will be cold to the skin, complete, indifferent.

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