The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2019

All Issues
MAY 2019 Issue



The measure of a fence
is its definition;

of my mind, its mark
in the mouth, mirroring

alluvial fans of my face.

What kind of document
is a photo of a map?

Whether I’ve seen a thing
whose word I’m unsure of—

say, a pergola—it’s practically
certain, but I’ve never put

“oblivion” in a poem before.
All this time I didn’t even notice.

Took almost forever,
pretty much everything

(the pickets are listing)

what I am used to
being broken.


Two precepts of artificial
intelligence on television:

never show a computer
its code; and the more

a robot understands, the less
likely it is to know

it’s not real.
I am nothing if not

aware the self is made
the shape that explains it—

the purpose of living
is to keep alive

what I should know
I should know.


Cut the wrong wire
and the timer turns back

to time (all of it
and we are coeval,

now more than ever).
Space is no better—

everything the case
is a trompe l’oeil stage

with real light on it.
Pantomime silence.

A poem is a robotic arm
feeling its way in the dark.


Cross my hands,
close my lids,

float me down
on a raft of lashed

limbs. No.

feed on receivers
of sun and other

limbic influence.
Summer sounds

ceaseless. Night
blooming black

paper trees
pasted to blue—

I’m only playing
dead to you,

a strike-anywhere flame
waiting for fuel.


Kate Colby

Kate Colby is author of seven books of poetry, including I Mean (Ugly Duckling Presse) and The Arrangements (Four Way Books). A new book of literary essays, Dream of the Trenches, is just out with Noemi Press. She lives in Providence, RI and teaches poetry at Brown University.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2019

All Issues