Kasey Perkins: “The Modern Hester,” “Lineage.” “Flowers from Saturn,” “Snowman”

The author writes: “’Lineage’ was in my MA thesis and ‘The Modern Hester’ was actually written as part of a chapbook of Nathaniel Hawthorne themed poems for Joe (exceedingly Benevento). Then there’s two that have been published: ‘Snowman,’ which was previously published in the Chariton Review and in my book (and Joe specifically mentioned it in the book blurb as one he likes), plus ‘Flowers from Saturn,’ which is also from the book.” “Snowman,” was first published in When the Dead Get Mail by Finishing Line Press in 2019. “Flowers from Saturn” was awarded the Margaret Leong Children’s Prize in poetry in 2014 and first published in When the Dead Get Mail by Finishing Line Press in 2019.



The Modern Hester

With an unpardonable sin
festering within her womb
she turns to yet another—
trading scarlet letter for
scarlet letter, pushing past
picket lines to place her
feet into the cold metal
stirrups of public

The righteous roar of
the vacuum aspirator
sucks the Pearl from the
shining shell of her

guilty conscience—with it,
whispers rumors, the
potential for years of child

Another capital A—
this time a letter borne
by no man but by painful
proximity, by no priest
but through the lattice
window of confession,
by no one, save for the
gloved hands of a
physician, warning her
of the scarlet searing
that will boil within her body,

much like shame.



He was ten when I sat him
down and showed him how to
do a shot—my little brother,
tears rolling face flushed with
fever, unable to swallow a pill.

I took the hammer in trembling
thirteen-year-old hands and
brought it down and ground up
two Tylenol discs, took a dirty
shot glass from the sink and
mixed a milky ounce of pain-
relieving water.

I wonder if he thinks back to shooting
that gritty tonic as he downs whiskey
next to me, at twenty.

I wonder when shots became shooting,
shooting—shooting up. I wonder if he
could show me the vein

he uses, I wonder if it pulses with
our mother’s blood.



Flowers from Saturn

I paint each of you, love
Neptune’s lesser known dark spot, feel
Pluto’s chill in the corner of my
bedroom, near a thousand asteroid
eyes of the stuffed animals placed inside
a milky way net. The solar system
hangs from my ceiling, plastic
and precisely measured. Sirius glows
green through putty-stuck stars.

Mercury and Mars break my heart.

I search the spackled skies at night for where
my real parents might be, tucked in some
lonely part of the galaxy.

I sneak into the back yard, find Venus
with a stolen telescope, feel home just beyond
my grasp—just this flimsy atmosphere caging me
like an eyelash trapped beneath
a contact lens.

My mother is there. She has to be. She died
in some space dogfight that no one
could win, even though my father tried
to stop her.

He would bring her flowers
from Saturn. I imagine my father loving her
so much that he left me here, unable

to bear her likeness.



You have to pack the center,

I tell you,

as your palm opens for me
like the icy cherry
blossoms falling from
the sky, and I
place a frozen diamond
in your glove.

He has to have a strong
core before you
can wrap him in snow skin—

just then, our elderly neighbor
across the street peeks
her face from her screen
door, delighted
to see children playing
in the midnight snow.

Start here.

Last night we talked in
the truck under trees
with leaves of
pearly cold, and you told me
you couldn’t wait
to get married.

I need you,

as I laugh at a snowball
too large to push up
the front yard,
laugh at the neighbor
chuckling her way back

we children, married
to different people,
different lives, and I

am dying to do it again.

But you had never made
a snowman,
so in this new land
of firsts we stack white
boulders in the night,

and as we lean to kiss
each snowy cheek
of our newly frosted friend,
I feel you
through two feet
of compacted flakes,

one o’clock in the morning
pressing upon us like lips.




Kasey Perkins (who teaches under the name Kasey Grady), is a professor, freelance editor, and poet who completed her MFA in poetry at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and her MA and BA in English at Truman State University. Her poetry and book reviews have appeared in the Book of Matches, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Chattahoochee Review, Chartion Review, The Wisconsin Review, Lumina, and many more. She is the recipient of the Margaret Leong Children’s Poetry Prize and has been shortlisted for others, such as the Arcadia Ruby Irene Poetry prize. A former first gen, low income college student, she now teaches first year writing and foodways courses at Washington University in St. Louis. Her first poetry book, When the Dead Get Mail, was published through Finishing Line Press in 2019. More can be found at: www.kaseyperkins.com