Kathleen Cain

Crossing on Highway 287, that June

The road to Brighton turns north and cuts through
summer fields of cabbages and corn, green
beans before it snakes back east toward
town to the courthouse. This time of morning

you can tell where the river moves beneath
white air rising, the water’s breath
and dreaming. Dark-skinned men already

at work in the fields, tending somebody else’s
crops. I’d like to stop and get out and stay here
for awhile, bend my back to a day’s work

and at the end of it, walk down to the river.
Sit and listen. But my task lies at the end
of Bridge Street, to sit, mute
in the courtroom, amid the flood
of lawyers’ words that swirl around
the death of my boy—words that will
sweep me away, let me drown
in the dark eye of the killer.

Each day, as I hold to the road below
the heron appears, crossing above me.
Five days running the heron appears
ferrying hope on her great blue back.
Her wings beat away fear. Her golden eye
sees into all dark corners, all dark eyes.

Five mornings we meet and cross
on the Brighton Road—she moving from
darkness into light, I from light into darkness.

We each turn back at the end of the day
and when I look into the killer’s face
how I stare
with a golden animal eye.

— Kathleen Cain

Lowell Crossing

Lowell Boulevard ventures north, crosses 52nd Ave., over the border of Denver proper, into (still) unincorporated Adams County (somewhat improper). Whatever
toxic or
is happening in Colorado
is happening in demographically traceable points
in Adams County. Walk softly there
and carry 9-1-1 on your speed-dial. Although

you no longer need to pay the ferryman
to cross Clear Creek, slow down
over RR tracks, ignore tailgaters
where the road divides:
refitted gravel pits, into Jim Baker Reservoir
on the west, from the private lake and gated community
still known as Aloha Beach on the east
an old high spot
for low rollers

So park somewhere. Stop and get out. Walk Lowell from Clear Creek
to 64th. It might not work the first time, but keep trying.
You have to earn the permissions of these places.
Give your feet plenty of time to learn, beneath pavement,
the unhurried pace of steps pressed into clay, summer travel
beneath foothills of Ute

following the game up trail now pavement
north then west
to the Flat Irons.

Keep the mountains
on your left hand. Look up only
when the weather changes, or the road
veers away from water. Keep going.

— Kathleen Cain

St. Francis Without Hands

The nuns gave up replacing the broken hands of Francis on his corner, set to face Federal from 52nd Avenue, years ago. Such an easy target as the gangs roamed north and west. No sense of humor in the vandalism. Not just a cigarette left dangling between the fingers. Or a beer can raised to the lips.

But who would amputate the hands of such sweetness? Take vengeance on this patient man, once an old twelfth-century homie himself?

Then again, St. Frank, does he really need hands? Will his blessings fail because he can’t throw the sign of the cross with flair? Wouldn’t he share bread with you anyway, using only his stumps? Would the rap of his canticles fall less fervently from his lips because he cannot point to Brother Sun and Sister Moon?

I mean, seriously, dude, do you feel safer now? And what makes you think power’s only in the hands? This guy tamed a wolf with words. Talked to snakes. Better be careful. He might come for you next.

— Kathleen Cain


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