SPLIT THIS ROCK: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Kathi Wolfe


from the Helen Keller poems


Don’t think we can’t see the red flag
flying outside your study window
or imagine my G-men don’t know
you’re pals with Emma Goldman.
She told every café society Bolshevik
you sent her birthday greetings last year.

When Eugene Debs said I deserved
to go to jail, it was the happiest day
of my life
, you boasted to the papers.
Any decent, red-blooded American
defective would stay behind closed doors.
Not you. You marched with pinkos
on the picket line. Those lard-ass
punks demanded 12 hour workdays, said
it was their God-given right to eat lunch.

Blind, deaf and dumb, my ass!
You’re dumb like an un-American fox.
You can’t dupe us with those Braille dots.
We know about your slate and stylus
Moscow connection. The commies love
your deaf alphabet. With that plaster saint
smile on your red lips, you spell commie
secrets into your comrades’ hands.

Damn you, Helen Adams Keller!
Speeding cars, phone taps, stings,
fast-talking dames can’t pin you down.
If only that do-gooder teacher hadn’t put
your hand under that pump. If only you’d
been thrown in the river and drowned.

May you one day be me, sleepless
at 2 a.m., trying to crack your code.




Standing with Mr. Nagai, a scientist,
in the corpse of the medical college,
I feel the bomb-blasted walls. Jagged
pipes, twisted girders, timbers, flakes
of smoked flesh cover this graveyard
that once trained healers. Twenty-four
teachers scorched, doctors decapitated,
patients incinerated. And they say
America won the War? I do not want
peace that passes understanding; I want
understanding that brings peace. Mr. Nagai,
I touch your singed, nearly skinless face.
I don’t have much time left, you say,
but I am well, for the sun is warm.


Kathi Wolfe was a finalist in the 2007 Pudding House Press Chapbook competition, and her chapbook Helen Takes the Stage: the Helen Keller Poems is forthcoming from Pudding House Press. Her poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, Potomac Review, Breath & Shadow and other publications. She has been awarded poetry residencies at Vermont Studio Center, received a Puffin Foundation grant, and has appeared on the public radio show "The Poet and The Poem." Wolfe writes "Life Among the Heffalumps," a column on books and poetry, for Scene4, a monthly, international arts and media magazine.


Published in Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2008.

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Kathi Wolfe