Paige Kirkman

Paige Kirkman

On the Malignant Benign

I can put down in a pocket-book the words and things I shall not know the meaning of.
–Samuel Richardson, Pamela


They had avoided myxoma.
Thirteen-year-old girls don’t get the word
myxoma. Do not get the round-mouthed
second syllable, the mediating
vowel, the bared cave-mouth
of a doctor to crawl into.

The mother is granted myxoma
wholly. She can take it home with her,
hone its origin; muxa meaning mucus.
She can become consumed
by the gluey u, the connective tissue
akin to the umbilical cord.

Rather, the girls is offered tumour—
tumour on the heart of your mother.


To the both of us they next told, only loud enough
so that we could not hear what they truly meant,
atrial septal defect; a blanket thrown over
the word hole.
In the living room of atrium, against
the floral-papered walls of septum, they sat us
on our well-worn couch and lulled us
from the deficere: the cavity in the brickwork
that we had never spotted. All the air
that had for so long been passing out and in
mindlessly. Had they just
said hole, I can imagine
for you there would’ve been the sudden
awareness of a long-paused eclipse
in the sky of your thoracic cavity, a tuning
into the body’s effort whistle, a new knowing
of the hollow quality
of your pulse. For me, there would’ve been
the scrubbing in, the dressing-up
like a child with ambitious dreams,
the scalpel in a shaky hand. They denied
me the meeting, the pressing
of my pinky finger into the muscle,
my eye held against the keyhole, the standing
at the end of the tunnel,
waving farewell to the lovers
who’d boarded the train
of your forgetting;
barred me from tracing
the map, the veins with silly names
like Church St. and Willow Rd.,
locating myself. Helpful would’ve been
hole in the heart of your mother, just left
of the place where she holds you.


poetry is the mother of lies

I take vowels as hollow spaces:
take snow and fill it with spiced cake,
take road and fill it with pilgrims,
take slow, fill it with bitten cuticles
and losing. I take colt, fill it
with child brothers and whiskey sours
and bad mornings.
I take old and fill it with the house
up for sale and the necklace
I’ll never take off.
Then, your body found your heart’s hole
and filled it with myxoma,
kindly leaving that o for me.


driving to the hospital to see you, dad would caulk the hush with songs I keep a close watch on this heart of mine winter had buffed the trees that suture the cul-de-sacs, allowing me to tally the nests I keep my eyes wide open all the time blackbirds rarely roost in the same nest twice, leaving behind black masses like scribbles on the sky I keep the ends out for the tie that binds the yearlings may have started their subsong, but it wasn’t the fleshed out chitter yet and we could not hear it because you’re mine, I walk the line there were some trees with not a single nest, and I knew if I asked dad he would say these were the more empty I find it very, very easy to be true but I also know that if I felt that I could’ve asked you, you would’ve said different; a tree with littered nests knows another emptiness I find myself alone when each day’s through like how a page with all the words crossed out knows another emptiness yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you than the page which has never known words at all because you’re mine, I walk the line


Sometimes I like to hide in the word
–Zaffar Kunial

Lately I have been hiding in the word
poet, like how lost things hide
in the word pocket.

Cavernous is the word poet I found
when I pulled myself into the o,
set up camp, lit a small fire,

watched shadows writhe against the walls,
listened to them read aloud,
trusted them.

Plato said that poets have no place
in an ideal state. To him
that o

must be more like a sinkhole than
a safety, more like a pocket
full of punctures—

all the lost things on the floor: broken.
To Plato, the heart was just
one bar

of a cell-room trapping
the better parts
of us.

I enter into your heart through the exit
when I enter into the word


when trying to write in a café
                    do you ever become so distracted

by the others around you,
                    the ones who in four hours

have never looked up from their pens,
                    that you must go outside for a smoke

but when you get outside it’s raining,
                    you forgive the rain stroking your forehead

but then your lighter won’t work
                    and your thumb is raw from forcing

the spark wheel, making you drop
                    your cig into a puddle and when you straighten

back up from lifeguard duty
                    there is a girl, perhaps eighteen, walking past

holding the hand of her mother;
                   you start to cry, even though now

they’re out of sight, and with soggy
                   cig in hand you start to wonder if

you’re mocking the rain because
                    you want to curl up in that slither of space,

infiltrate the tiny burrow, find shelter
                    between their palms, listen to the blackbird’s song.


The o in myxoma leads me to the o in tona;
the Aztec heart. The heart in the bloody hand
of a priest. The beat slow against the palm
like touching the ground as the horses gallop
away. The trickle
stroking the forearm, bending over the elbow,
circling the joint. The nails restraining it,
the red sun welting it, the vessels pressed
like lavender sprigs. The glory of it
held above the head, raining over them,
the song of the crowd. None of this,
none of them, would care for that heart’s
myxoma; the gelatinous glob, the shady
atrial burden, its hiding or its chaos.
The body is at the foot of the steps,
but this is the tona, eclipsing the sun.

PAIGE KIRKMAN is a poet from Bolton. She is working towards her first pamphlet.