Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor Rose Metal Press and the author of Reading With Oprah (University of Arkansas Press, 2005), That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (with Elisa Gabbert, Otoliths Books, 2007) ,and Live Nude Girl (University of Arkansas Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared recently in Court Green, Subtropics, The Pinch, and The Cincinnati Review, and her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Humanities Review and Another Chicago Magazine. She lives in Chicago where she works for US Senator Dick Durbin.

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Three Poems by Kathleen Rooney


At the Zoo Lady's lair on the edge of town,
rabbits huddle in a derelict hutch. White

sequins strew the ground among round russet
droppings. A toucan scratches in a cage with

his mate. The groom sees hate in their birdy
blue eyes & white lace laced through the chicken

wire coop. Two monkeys hunker in a wooden
box, in a fiberglass tree—a bird-house, really,

with just one room. The groom zooms in: hands
so human, eyes so luminous, until they become

as her & him, in a studio apartment in a mystery
city—expensive, shitty, coffin-sized. The groom

takes pity. Places a key in their prehensile tails.
Freed, they flee to the Zoo Lady's shack.

Man's vision is held together by monkey-skin glue,
cries the termagant Zoo Lady from her lockless

front door. Behind her, the bride—hidden
or hiding? A monkey on either side. One on

her white shoulder, braiding her locks, his own
blown back in a mane of surprise. One talks:

Your lives will be nothing like anything bad
you think you see
, & places a gorilla mask

over the face of the bride. They vanish, guerrillas
in cacophonous twilight. Among thrilling trees.

[originally appeared in The Harvard Review]


So these are the things we lost in the move—
yes, these are the things we lost in the move:
a steel fork, a ring, a letter, and love

for the life we had made together.
Maybe we should never have stayed together.
You'd be happier with someone other

than me. Most evenings, all we do is drink,
put on a record with no words and drink
in the kitchen, watching the sun sink

behind trees. Our new street has turned to gold.
Every leaf at our feet has turned to gold,
and now you and I are finally old
enough to understand: love can vanish
like a fist when you open your hand.

[originally appeared in Puerto del Sol]


Circle skirt. Coloratura. Clarissa Dalloway. Let's play a game.
Nobody's sure what the rules are. You go first.

Lust. Trust. The great unsatisfiable. The brute fact is,
"review" is not a genre. When you major in English literature

you'll wish you'd littered your life with less useless
bullshit. One star, two stars. You're better off embittered

& carless than carred & idealistic, haunting themed bars.
P.S. If you ask who's winning, you automatically lose.

Exacto knife. De facto. Ex post facto. There's no time limit
per se. But eventually you'll die. Come on, put your heart in it.

[A collaboration with Elisa Gabbert,
originally appeared in the online journal elimae]