11: molly sutton kiefer


molly sutton kiefer

Molly Sutton Kiefer appreciates specificity. So much so that when she travels, she collects that region’s field guides to bring back for material. She enjoys photographing things beautiful and terrible, and she lines her nests with thick books. In this way, she hopes to winter-over well. She also loves that gray-blue one can find in the ocean or in the sky, on the other side of the setting sun. She’s currently an MFA student at the University of Minnesota and lives in Red Wing with her husband and menagerie, which includes two cats, two dogs, a worm farm, and the occasional refugee wildlife.

She blogs at field | work and has an occasionally updated webpage here.






The moon is a seed, sleeping in the sky, and she thinks of you every night this way, you as sleeping, not yet gone, and she stares at your jumble of shoes in the bottom of the closet, tries not to think of you sleeping there, in your version across town, and she thinks of the Goodwill by the grocery store, then the groceries when you used to run into town with her little list, the method of every day, and your swims, your gaping like a fish and your ten minute walks, loops around the block and how you had a heart attack a decade and a half ago and survived and she thinks of how your memory still worked then, wasn’t ruptured like it is now where nothing makes sense and she isn’t your wife any more, not to you anyway, but when she was, you would kneel together in the wet earth and plant seeds every spring, plant tomatoes and dahlias and you would hold hands when you slept.



These are her words for sorrow: pine, canoe,
wool, mums, kitchen timer, hospice,
night. This is how she must describe him: cordate,
tomato soup, love letters, hands.

My grandmother, has confessed in the lines
of my birthday card that she is lonely and frightened.
I can imagine my grandmother, folded
in the chair he once sat in, pressing her nose
against the cushions, finding traces of the sweet
tobacco, the trailings of him,
an old sweater between the pillows.
I imagine: she will wear it to sleep tonight,
keep to her side of the bed, and keen
at the moon’s reflection.

These are the words for sorrow: howl, cereal,
wife, potted plant, wheelchair, shoelace, memory,
dementia. This is how I must describe him: tweed,
pontoon, lake house, mallard, singing.

They say I wouldn’t even recognize him now.
He’s using words I’ve never used before:
calling nurses cocksucker and pushing his way
into the night, unfolding,
leaving the alarm behind him.



My grandparents’ house reminds me
of a lantern shop—
lamps with big bellies, squat
on wobbly tables.  Bulbs shuffle
through their living room like the dead’s
waiting room.

He is seventy-three and the back of his head
looks like bedsheets, pajamas pooling around
his ankles. His mouth is a great gaping fish,
gulping spaghetti, soup, and oyster crackers
like a whale skimming the surface
of the ocean. He is in the process of forgetting.

Each moment, out of smoke and fog:
a dog becomes ahhh, kitty, and his tortilla
makes good dipping in a glass of iced water.

He stands in the foyer, patting his pockets,
saying, “I can’t find—the thing to go, to go—
out.”  This:  the keys for the door.

And when I visit him as I know him,
I curl against his jelly rimmed edges,
pour soup into cracked bowls,
each moment, lit sparklers.





on the nightstand:


am loving:

Homebrewing late at night with my husband, imagining spring on its way, road trips that lead to poetry conventions, my seven month old godson Christian, eating sustainably, chai tea, walks in the woods, letterpress art, classes on gardening and nature writing.


what inspires you about winter?

Winter hibernation pushes me indoors, forces me to work, though I must say, lately we’ve been seeing the sun, the snow melt, and I am long distracted by the gorgeousness of a false spring day (in Minnesota, we all know spring is a ways off). I love the woolly sweaters of winter, the chowder soups, the smell of baked bread. I love reading poetry in that slant of winter light, watching the sun set brilliantly, and spending the evening with thick novels propped up in my lap.


what are three constants in your day?

  1. Good morning + good night kisses
  2. Handwritten letters to my best friend and my grandmother
  3. Walks with our two dogs


what are your hopes for 2009?

To see this full series of poems find a home in a chapbook. To grow a successful vegetable garden with the helps of my grandmother. To go on a long vacation with my husband somewhere new to the both of us.




In honor of her grandfather, Molly has put together a series of postcards based on images from the lake where he lived. All proceeds will be donated to an Alzheimer’s foundation, selected by her grandmother, and anyone mentioning this joy+ride in the checkout process will receive a little something extra!


14 thoughts on “11: molly sutton kiefer

  1. Yes, I agree, beautiful to read.

    His mouth is a great gaping fish,
    gulping spaghetti, soup, and oyster crackers
    like a whale skimming the surface
    of the ocean. He is in the process of forgetting.

    But this… this I like best of all.

    Thanks for sharing, g

  2. All these poems are heart-breaking and gorgeous, but I also especially love “Hands.” All my grandparents have passed now, and these poems bring to consciousness the ache I still feel for each of them, in a non-oppressive, if bittersweet, and grounding way.

  3. Absolutely stunning. I particularly liked Linguistics. I also liked the inspiration that her grandparents seemed to serve in her poetry, reflecting the impact they most likely made in the poet’s life.
    Nicely done.

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