We followed a path that was visible only to me. It was easy, like following the sun as it set over Lake Michigan. The redbuds were gnarled and bent, but blossoms the color of old ladies’ rouge still waved from windows in their bark. The kids ran ahead when they saw the house that wasn’t one anymore. It was an amazing ramshackle of boards held up by memory. Delvan lived there a long time, after Maymie and Grandma Borst died. He tended the chickens and cats and cows and squirted milk into my mouth once; its heat shocked me. The siding on the west side, facing the big lake, had been soaked and scalded and blown dry so often it was more like beef jerky than wood. Some clattered off when the kids ran past. It would be stupid and dangerous to go inside, so I went alone. When I exhaled, the house inhaled. Cat skeletons crunched underfoot. Dust motes clogged the sunbeams that warmed the bare frame of the davenport. The little piano had only one good leg, a lot like me. I knew where the loose floorboard was. My dad told me years ago. Now all the floorboards were loose, but I counted six and a half from where the piano probably stood. Raccoon scat. The board came up easily, as if it were ready after 90 years, waiting for that boy to come back and get what he’d hidden there, the day before his parents hauled him and his sisters to California looking for work, each kid with one bag, half-way through the Great Depression. I didn’t want to stick my hand in. And I didn’t have to. The locomotive and caboose were right there. Just like he said. Just as he left them.
first full-length book of poetry, Dominant Hand, is available from Mayapple
Press, and she is co-author with artist Mary Hatch of
Art Speaks: Paintings
and Poetry (Kazoo Books, 2018). Other books by Kerlikowske include The Shape
of Dad (a memoir in prose poems), Last Hula (winner of the 2013 Standing
Rock Chapbook Competition), and Chain of Lakes.
She has been publishing her poetry and fiction for more than 20 years in such journals
and magazines as Encore, Cincinnati Review, Passager, and Poemeleon,
among others. Her work is also anthologized in Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the
Flash Sequence (White Pine Press, 2016); The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly
Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015); two of the annual KYSO Flash anthologies,
Accidents of Light (2018) and Earth Hymn (2019); and in the Michigan
writers anthology published by Western Michigan University (WMU).
Kerlikowske completed her doctorate in English at WMU in 2007. She also creates
visual art and has recently completed the Hester Prynne Chair, first of a
series of literary women chairs. An arts activist, she is president of the Poetry
Society of Michigan, and she served for 30 years as president of the Kalamazoo
Friends of Poetry. She’s retired from a teaching career at Kellogg Community
Featured Artists Mary Hatch and Elizabeth Kerlikowske in KYSO
Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018); includes half a dozen of Kerlikowske’s
ekphrastic prose poems and micro-fictions inspired by Hatch’s paintings
Three in Prose by Kerlikowske in DIAGRAM (Issue 5.1):
“Forty Winks,” “The Girls’ Room,” and