Two Poems by Katherine Riegel

When I Stopped

I never had to beg
for a pony. The horses just

were—muscled motion,
familiar as milkweed

seeds. My mother
had epilepsy and my father

thought that should make
us all as angry as he was,

poor delicate out of control
tyrant with his fists

clenched tight. We lived
so easily then but no one

knew it, the 1970s full
of fear as any decade.

I knew raspberry thorns
and barn smell, freedom

on bike and horseback
and sneakered foot,

place as solid as ice
in the water buckets come

winter. And then they sold
the horses—I had not known

you could sell family—
and we moved to town.

That must be when I stopped
trusting I would be loved forever.


She Wanted to Go to the Sea One Last Time

I have been insensitive to delight,
too busy avoiding stones in the road to notice

Icarus falling from the sky—or before that,
his flying. I have stoppered my ears

to the singing as I worked out some problem
in my head, I have watched others speak

and thought only about what I would say.
Swimming in the ocean I have seen pelicans

coast by on cupped wings and looked over
at my sister, her eyes closed in pleasure,

and in the midst of sun and breeze
and the shifting embrace of salt water

I let my throat close with the knowledge
of her dying—great gods of the otherworld

I almost let her see me weep. I have so much
to be forgiven for. I am alive

still, and the dog resting her chin in my hand
gives me the whole soft weight of her head.


Katherine Riegel is the author of Love Songs from the End of the World, the chapbook Letters to Colin Firth, and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in Brevity, The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, One,, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches independent online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at