top of page

C.N.P Poetry 

Memento Mori; Self-Portrait as a Keith Haring Painting; Bees Sucking Clover

By: Kim Harvey

Memento Mori

Things I can’t forget –


         lights in the trees 

my brother walking away in the snow    

         what I know I saw

in the shadows 

Jack the Ripper came to me in a dream    

   placed a bloody heart    still throbbing

               into the white silk palm 

of my gloved hand

That fierce El Niño  

               steep Clipper Street       

the long walk home

     to my old one-bedroom in the city 

               that now rents for $3500 

     combat boots  kicked off 

after a rock show     The time it took 

to register  the 


of wet carpet 

under my feet     overflow 

from the upstairs neighbors’ toilet 

          rhythmically dripping

out of our 


onto the kitchen table  

Sheets of paint from the ceiling that 

          flaked & fell

          in great white swaths 

          like drifts of snow

my first winter

in California   when I thought 

it would always be like that

          the year my brother died

                    his beating heart  

cut out of his chest 

          & put inside someone else 

who died three months later

I now live across two bridges

on an island 

     around the corner from the Boathouse 

     Tavern     a bar attached to a bait 

& tackle shop that sells 

The Best Garlic Noodles in Town

on certain posted days

from noon to three


           lemon trees   


           Japanese magnolia    

fallen pink 

           petals line the sidewalk

where the Southern Pacific line 

           once stopped 

on the way to Neptune Beach  

        Ferris Wheel by the Bay

popsicles   kewpie dolls  carousel 


nautilus sign where 

           for a dime

you could swim all day   picnic

           barefoot in the sand     skewer 

barbecue in pits     music  

pumping through the moonlit 


                  of the dance hall    

a mile or two from where tonight I sleep

or don’t      

behind a red door


with glittered berries on a twisted 

thorny wreath

   Jack’s bloodied fingers

            graze my cheek

      his breath hot

            at the back of my neck 

telling me      I’m still here 

but none of us 

               get out alive.

Self-Portrait as a Keith Haring Painting

Hieroglyphics depicting crocodiles,

long snakes with flickering tongues, 

embryonic fairies, skeletal birds, 

the Virgin Mary, dancers squatting low, 

a star exploding, Hibiscus, an anus, X 

marks the spot, a pack of wild dogs 

with digestive tracts exposed, radiant 

crawling child dead before he can walk, 

hole where a heart should be, pallbearers

carrying a body surrounded by light. 

Bees Sucking Clover

How they hop from one white-capped bud to another, stop to sip whatever nectar is there.

How I was stung last summer when one landed in the nest of my hair and got stuck, her venom raising a bump on the back of my scalp.

How two weeks later a second bee penetrated my skin, left her stinger behind until my arm burned red and swelled twice its size with her double lancet embedded inside.

Her guts spilling into my body, her ruptured abdomen, muscle and nerve endings. How I was the last thing she touched before she died. 

crawling to me, this spider 

the color of one of the freckles on my lover’s arm.

just like that, she’s gone.


Kim Harvey is a queer SF Bay Area poet and Associate Editor at Palette Poetry. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. You can find her work in Poets Reading the News, Rattle, Radar, Barren Magazine, Wraparound South, Black Bough Poetry, Kissing Dynamite, and elsewhere. She is the 1st Prize winner of the Comstock Review’s 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award and the 3rd Prize winner of the 2019 Barren Press Poetry Contest. Twitter: @kimharveypoet.

Interview with the Poet:

Cathexis Northwest Press:

How long have you been writing poetry?

Kim Harvey:

I would say that poetry is something I came to naturally and at a very early age. I probably started writing poems regularly at 8 or 9 years old. I also began writing a novel in third grade and would ask my student teacher Miss Rich and other adults for feedback. I enjoyed spending time alone in my room or outside in a state of wonder. I would lie on the sidewalk for hours just staring up at the moon with my binoculars. Poetry has always helped me engage more fully with the world and process complicated emotions. In sixth grade, I did a self-directed independent study in my English class where I curated poems by female poets and described what I liked about them along with what little I could find about each poet’s life (this being pre-internet, there wasn’t always a lot). I think Christina Rossetti and Sara Teasdale were among those poets I studied. Then I would write my own poems in response to theirs.


Can you remember the first poem that you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


Well, of course as a really young kid, there was Dr. Seuss. When I was six years old I memorized a poem that I performed as my audition to get into a children’s theater group. The poem was “I Woke Up This Morning” by Karla Kuskin and I still remember that poem to this day. But when I really fell in love with poetry was in my early teens when I discovered Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” and Margaret Atwood’s “you fit into me.” I was your typical moody, brooding, emo. Really, what teenage girl doesn’t love Plath?


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


So many. I’m constantly finding new poets to admire. Some of my longtime favorites are Jane Hirshfield, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Robert Hass, Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux. I love Forrest Gander’s Be With. Danez Smith. Terrance Hayes. Kaveh Akbar. “Whereas” by Layli Long Soldier was a revelation. Diana Khoi Nguyen’s book Ghost Of really astounds me. Especially hearing her read the poem, “Triptych”. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Listen to Airea D. Matthews reading “Ashkit Judges the Dandelion” . That also blew me away. And there are legions of emerging poets who have already made a lasting impression on me. Poets like torrin a. greathouse, William Ward Butler, Ojo Taiye, Kari Flickinger, Ankh Spice, James Cagney, Heather Quinn, Joumana Altallal, Lizabeth Yandel, Alina Stefanescu. Just to name a few. I am in awe of what’s happening in contemporary poetry today. As a reader/editor for Palette and just following poets on Twitter, I see a lot.


Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you into the zone?


I enjoy working with prompts and exercises, especially lists or found language and riffing from that. When I’m in a rut, I just pick up a magazine or news article and start writing down words or images that intrigue me. I spent an entire flight to Hawaii once doing that exercise with the travel magazine in the seat back pocket and came up with a huge pool of words that I drew from for several poems. I’ll listen to poetry podcasts to get inspired. Or walk my dog. The poem “Memento Mori” was inspired by walking through my neighborhood in Alameda and wanting to write about the first El Niño I experienced when I moved to California. The Keith Haring poem was inspired by a special exhibit of Harinng’s work at the SFMOMA when my poetry group decided to meet there and write together. I find inspiration in the day to day and take a lot of notes about things I find interesting that I might pull out later to get me started on a new poem.


How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?


Usually I let the poem tell me what it wants to be, but I occasionally set out to write in a particular form. I’ve been into sonnets lately and also experimenting with versions of the haibun. I made up my own form that I call a Golden Haibun, which is a sort of Golden Shovel/Haibun hybrid. Then I may cut away pieces of the haibun’s narrative so that it is an erasure of itself. I go through phases where I will fall in love with a particular stanza length. Most recently, it’s been couplets or I will write in staggered tercets or quatrains that create a sort of stepladder effect, or that weave in and out. The visual effect of the poem is important to me. For years, I only wrote in one long block with no stanza breaks at all. If a poem isn’t working, I might experiment with the form by adding constraints or removing them.


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


Your voice is there already inside you. You just need to recognize when it shows itself to you and don’t be afraid to be different. Read all the poets you can and search out diverse voices and styles. Experiment and try something you’ve never done before. The more you read and write, your unique voice will begin to emerge. Follow what interests you. Pay attention to how your body reacts to poems you read and write. Say what you want to say. Sometimes you just need to get out of your own way. As Brenda Hillman says, write the poems you want to read.


What is your editing process like?


It depends on the poem. Sometimes it’s tinkering and playing with different stanza lengths or line lengths or line breaks. Other times I salvage just one or two lines and go in a completely different direction. I will usually start by workshopping a poem in a class or with my poetry group. Often I already know which parts of the poem need work, but sometimes there are blind spots and it’s helpful to hear how the poem is hitting different readers. Some tricks are flipping the poem so the last line comes first or dropping the first line or two. I have in my head that Kim Addonizio said, “Once you’ve got the fire, fuck the match.” I don’t know if she actually said this, but I’ve attributed it to her now. It sounds like something Kim Addonizio might say. Anyway, that’s one editing approach that has stayed with me. You have to be willing to sacrifice lines you might love for the good of the poem. You know, “Kill your darlings.”


When do you know that a poem is finished?


I’m not sure a poem is ever really finished. Honestly, this question used to keep me up at night. Now I see it more as knowing when to let go. If I’ve read the poem over many times, including reading it aloud and I still don’t feel the need to change anything, then I’m ready to release it out into the world and let it be.


bottom of page