If someone says Catalina

By Margot Kahn

I think of this Janis Joplin
longhair, low-slung corduroy,
California flip-flop,
cello-playing boy.

His hair swung
    like a tiki bar curtain,
        the fringe of a flapper dress
            across my leg.

Together in a twin bed
that hair was a shade
and I was a window
and the tassel, from my neck to my navel,

        pulled
        Itself
        down.

How many one-night stands do you remember?
        How many do you care to recount?

That boy played like nothing we could afford.
A hundred-year whiskey on the rocks.
The melt of a glacier
        pooled at our feet.

Now someone says Catalina or cello or cancer
and I’m there again, singing over his requiem.
        Tassel and tongue.
        Shade and shroud.
Was it the hair, or the hands?
        The sound, or the shape of the sound?

I’m saying this so that you remember him.
So his mother knows that night is accounted for.


Margot Kahn is the author of the biography Horses That Buck (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008) and co-editor of the New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice anthology This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home (Seal Press/Hachette, 2017). Her essays, reviews and poems have appeared in Lenny Letter, The Rumpus, Tablet, The Los Angeles Review, River Teeth, Publishers Weekly, BUST, Crab Creek Review, Whiskey Island, Portland Review, Jabberwock Review and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and lives in Seattle.

Image: “Harbor Steps,” Seattle, 2003, 24×20, acrylic on canvas, Brianna Keeper