Literature 7-23-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Kathryn Kysar

"What Light: This Week's Poem," sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Look for our anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn in Uptown or on line.


The Fruit

“Juardo said she remembers growing up believing
that women got pregnant by simply sitting next to a man..”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune ,Sunday, June 19, 2005 section B8

Unlike the virgin, there was
no annunciation, no angel
came unto me with a halo
of light and a thin, graceful
finger pointing at my flat belly.
I thought a woman could get pregnant
just sitting next to a man. I avoided
my teasing uncle’s laps, stayed safe
in my circle of girls on the dusty
barrio playground.

How did it get inside me?
A message from the desert hare,
the whisper of the aloes, the scratch
of the cactus against the wind,
the trail of the turtle through
the sand, grunt of the desert
peccary? Did God whisper
his will inside me?

Was it the pit of peach
I accidentally swallowed? The apple
seed that innocently slid down my throat?
Un huevo fertilized by some cock? The bull’s
testicles served at my cousin’s wedding?
El beso bestowed upon me by the priest?
A cockroach crawled inside me?

I whisper with my friend Maria.
We cannot ask the sisters at the convent,
and our mothers turn their heads in silence,
arms grinding corn, kneading dough
for tortillas, rubbing twisted clothes
up and down corrugated washboards.

Was it a bird bringing my wish for a child,
or is this the fate of Eve
like the monthly visitation? I am alone
in my inquiries. My stomach grows
round, hard, not like a rock, but a ball, a piñata,
a soft paper skin filled with small gifts.


“The Fruit” was conceived at the Anderson Center in Red Wing. I was having my morning cup of tea and came across an article about a new program at Planned Parenthood to help curb teen pregnancies in the Latino community by educating the teens’ mothers, who lacked basic knowledge about the female body. The poem wonders what questions a woman would create in the absence of this basic truth. By using the tradition of the contemporary dramatic monologue, my persona poems move beyond my experience into the larger world to give voice to the unheard and to comment on social inequities and injustices.


Kathryn Kysar’s book of poetry is entitled Dark Lake. Her poems have been heard on “A Writer’s Almanac” and published in many literary magazines, including Great River Review, Midland Review, Mizna, Painted Bride Quarterly, and The Talking Stick. A winner of the Lake Superior Writers and SASE poetry contests, Kysar has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Norcroft, The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. She teaches at the Loft and Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minneapolis.