Poor Claudia published poetry, prose and conversations online and in print from 2009 to 2018.

Katie Byrum

Four Poems

  • Paradise
  • One Nightstand
  • Check, Please
  • You Can't Be Too Careful


Don’t leave me stranded here
I can’t get used to this lifestyle
—Talking Heads, “(Nothing But) Flowers”

Life in Suburbia quickly became lukewarm.
It was Easter, and as was the custom,
we put Peeps in the microwave, watched them swell and spin, slow
as the prom dance floor, seeing stars until they almost burst—

Who here hasn’t failed
to banish the old jingles?
This is the parking lot of my discontent:
Starbucks, blank blank, black tar, blank blank,
Chic Fil-A with extra sauce, et cetera—
We all know about having
too much of a good thing.

I washed a Xanax down with coffee and felt perfectly status quo.
There was a pleasant chill though the sun was shining,
I looked into it and I almost felt—

No. I bought three things for dinner. White packages inside white boxes. In the parking lot
there was a great expanse. I forget what it was for but there was caution tape around it.

Shopping carts rattle like bones, the highway left with distant honks.
Plastic water bottle crackle. Shitty plastic bag shuffle.
Whoever you are, promise you’ll pardon our mess.

One Nightstand

Take this syringe, for example.
Certain methods of extracting love may be easier,
but they won’t be as effective.

Instead of trying to talk to you, I wrap my idea of love
around a china bone: I am getting tired
and no one will respond. But also, to what?

Things keep disappearing from the nightstand,
like my whole removable life grows legs
and walks off while I’m sleeping.

I don’t know where anything goes, but we can find out
tonight, over packs and packs of cigarettes. I’ll take the extras—
I don't mean—is there more wine?

Oh god I am trying to find a place.
A sign that shows good things are going to happen
and we can have whatever we want, for free.

In any case, I have to remember to breathe,
and keep at least one surprise. Like the next morning,
when something will vanish that isn't small.

Check, Please

Garçon, finish your spiel or I might keel over!
About this dinner there is nothing I trust.
Barbacoa, tequila, and a blue-eyed barkeep.
I like sweet, but not too sweet—
nothing’s free in this world. A round on the house
gets him muttering; over chicken, his suspicions
become war. Empathetic oh-honey looks from the staff
and I’m thinking, I beg you to ruin this:
somebody, spilled wine, maitre-d, anybody,
escape me to the powder room!
Another such victory and I am undone.
How much more careful can I get?
Am I doomed to fog up the mirror again?
By candlelight our talk has turned sullen,
turned to trench warfare. So okay, I see it, I’ll go now:
I love you stopped having the right of way,
and my best intentions suffocate: but at least they can admit
when they’ve won the battle but lost the war.

You Can't Be Too Careful

Whosoever had a seasonal hell, this was certainly it:
the brother of whatever my peace got snagged on, passing—
the sudden turn of a careless word into an argument,
drinks diluting in the jar while complaints rehearsed in the mirror.

So I ran, my mind turned panoramic. I was 360˚ of apology,
all day long I was apology! Sorries to the grocer, the mailman,
the sad flesh at the back of the old woman’s arm.

It got so I didn’t have to even make mistakes; I nipped them in the bud
with my endless forgive me, and eventually stopped going outside for fear
I’d brush a stranger’s hand with mine or step on a bug unwittingly.

It was written: the lonesome curse of the only child, who worries,
who thinks of only herself and her world inside the apartment, flooded
with gray light and hammer noise from under next door’s blue tarps.
Cancels that mythology, she does, and rides away upon a swift horse.

Katie Byrum

Katie Byrum lives in Brooklyn and tends bar in Manhattan. In 2012, she received her MFA from Hunter College, where she was the awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her first collection of poems is forthcoming from Forklift Ink. You can read more here