Kara Goughnour

Death & Taxes

Death and taxes sit on a tiled line in tin basins.
A man holds them up to explain the difference,
wiggling each like to wriggling slabs of meat.
Death, he explains, is deep red and spices,
while taxes have pink and white polka dots of fat.

The man is like a balding father, cooing above
a strung mobile, dancing for a young thing that
doesn’t give a shit other than shit itself. He packs
onions into the circular ruts of his dull eyes to cry
at graves he dug himself.

He is a jolting frizz of blonde hair on a crotch rocket,
“Gas or Ass” stickers black out the back of the metallic helmet,
a leather jacket from Target over his embroidered polo and khakis.
I imagine him with black t-shirts under polo Superman style.

Deep v-necks with bold letters spelling out
“my bike isn’t the only thing that can go from zero to one-hundred,”
or maybe even “badass” stamped across flabby chest.
He says your womanly instincts say you don’t want birth control, really.

He says this spinach is the best health insurance you’ll ever see.
He folds the meat into a neat sandwich, force-feeds me one fighting bite at a time.

Wives of Spiders

The man at work who tells you
you need to smile more only has
the best of intentions. How degrading

must a joke be before a customer can touch or punch
your work-weaned arm? How many
more unsolicited opinions of what

constitutes as work and how your work
doesn’t fall into those categories
before you get your fifty-cent raise,

before you can stop considering
instant ramen a luxury?

In this arm, you hold everything wrong with yourself
in the eyes of others; this pliable straw, like a coffee stirrer
brewing the blood in your arm with the inability for life.

You, this jewel of Clotho, this tarantula-womb of life spewing from you
endless threads of clotted possibilities and you have the audacity to burn it dry

          because you are career-focused,
          because you are stopping this lineage, proudly,
          because you are not woman enough, no, don’t want to be woman enough to bear life.

You, this daytime drinker, this shit-faced, sky-faced, head-in-the-clouds thinker
of thoughts such as writing should be work.
How many more times do you write yourself out

of this life sized up with unsolicited eyes
before you write yourself out of it
or write yourself out of yourself?

Kara Goughnour is a queer writer and documentarian living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They received their Bachelor’s Degree in Creative and Professional Writing from The University of Pittsburgh. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award, and have work published or forthcoming in Third Point Press, the Southampton Review, and over twenty-five others. Follow them on Twitter @kara_goughnour or read their collected and exclusive works at karagoughnour.com.

Kara Goughnour

Example Proving We are Never Safe

In the teasing dark of morning,
girl with hands dried like the white-dust rot
of forgotten orange stands under the lamp-light
rays at the station’s farthest end,
where men with hoodie strings pulled taut
like police nooses smoke joints not-so-secretly,
where men in suits pace before dates
or job interviews or just because
man is known to love walking over
the most ground he can.
Girl with body like a dagger wrapped
in dining cloth slips her phone out of pocket,
checks train times, counts seconds before
speed walk along sparking train slowing
before landing where lone man stands,
glancing through girl’s shadow
into some simile or metaphor of world
where girl wants him or maybe knows his name.
Girl with head like a burst grape, ear canals gushing
with headphone-hip-hop to beat
the winter down, joins man on platform
at the minute the train is due, circumferences him
like a gnashing gator stands at his feet, like his hands
are Floridian deep water glossed with moss
and flies. Like touch from man is drowning
if it holds you long enough. Man pools
into girl’s vision with a claiming wave of hand.

When is the train due?

                                                                      Now.

Maybe we should move to the other side.
When the tracks have snow on them,
it means they’re not using the tracks.

                                                           It’s snowing.

It’s actually not heavy enough to sit
on the tracks like this, considering the
trains run often. I’m serious, the tracks
aren’t being—

Man talks like girl isn’t oozing back into herself,
like girl and man at trainstop in morning are likely
friends. Girl holding twenty-three years
of misplaced trust like dead deer dragging
enters train on the right side at the right time,
cradles her head like the man’s glance is an arrow
through it, cinches her hood over hat embroidered
with workplace logo, with red-apple target bobbing
to train-rustle, to headphone rapper’s fast lips clapping
like bear trap, Baby, you love me so. You just
don’t know it yet.

Kara Goughnour is a queer writer and documentarian living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They received their Bachelor’s Degree in Creative and Professional Writing from The University of Pittsburgh. They are the recipient of the 2018 Gerald Stern Poetry Award, and have work published or forthcoming in Third Point Press, the Southampton Review, and over twenty-five others. Follow them on Twitter @kara_goughnour or read their collected and exclusive works at karagoughnour.com.