Two Poems

Katie Byrum


after Chris Slaughter

In a violent sky I gunpowder in a sentence with you.

This house owes me: I once held walls.
Now my back is a mistake you made from scratch.

I see the barbed wires these pieces crawled through to come see you,

past the raggedy sunrise, your co-defendant
past the stare your brother looks at you with,
your daughter, your blood, a flammable swagger from a woman’s head.

But I can’t remember how to walk like you.

When I broke your silence, it tucked
a gun in my hand.
As if it could change the truth.

[Seven Deadly Sins: New York Edition]

You wouldn’t believe

the emergencies I’ve walked past—
I’ve refused change to beggars
with leftovers burning a hole in my bag,
I have snarled at fat men
who called me beautiful,
feigned sick in lieu of the birthdays—
too far on the train, too far—felt lust
crackle in a subway car: hands touching
on the pole; I let them, I let them—
I have plugged my ears, shoved tourists
& given the dirtiest of looks:
oh you who eat tuna on the train,
oh you holder-of-doors, the god-sized
width of your strollers, I am sorry, I was wrathful;
I have eyeballed the shoes of countless
handsome women & let a competition
grow in me, I have stolen from the lost
& found & picked flowers
I did not grow
& as for the woman
whose headscarf bobbed with Christ
has risen—I bowed my head
& went back to my book

About the Writer
Katie Byrum Split Lip Magazine

Byrum hails from Kentucky. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she spends her time writing poems and dodging pigeons. You can find recent work online at Forklift, Ohio; Gulf Coast; La Fovea, and iO: a journal of new American poetry. Send comments, complaints, and suggestions to