Frau Kahnt

by Brandon Kilbourne


Again her voice aged soft tries out
my ears, hopeful for a breakthrough
while I open a can too much
for her arthritis; neighborly,
her syllables don’t shy away
from my scant vocabulary,
as she copes with loss leaving her
marooned in her ninety-two years.

Hearing me out in the hallway,
she tethers greetings to old books,
fresh strawberries, and birthday cake,
only to watch sound German words
founder as emptied sounds butting
an English impasse – Supplanting
language, a rust-shut penknife speaks
fluent goodwill, leaving her hands.


I listen to your plangent eyes,
your voice blind in my feckless ears –
Witness imprisoned in your tongue
withers to sparsely strung atoms:
Mein Mann ist tot seit acht Jahren.
Trembling eyes crave life for the dead
in graves sealed by my poor German.


Undeterred, she ventures outside
zeitgeists standstill in furniture,
photos’ inhabitants, knick-knacks
gilded with memories, her steps
retreading the path to my door:
with a doorbell’s press, her finger
translates beyond all words spoken
the loneness shawling her shoulders.


Brandon Kilbourne is a biologist – a morphologist in fact – who calls Berlin, Germany home. When not in the company of various mammal skeletons or chasing down leads for roadkill to dissect, he spends his time writing poetry. His work has previously appeared in Sky Island Journal, Beach Reads, Naugatuck River Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, Panel Magazine, Sea to Sky Review, and Tahoma Literary Review.