Athena Kildegaard:
“a safe, well-defined, acceptable unknown”

[From the WVFC Poetry Archive. First Published March 15, 2020]


“a safe, well-defined, acceptable unknown”
……….—René Magritte

In the arranging of morning, something
gets lost, a comb or an idea,

most certainly the particulars of your dream,
though all day you feel as if ticks

explore your body. You’ve been
nowhere near high grass or a solemn wood.

The ticks leap into your imagination unbidden,
like the witch in a German tale with her comb

or like a ghost someone else has promised.
Neuroscientists find no synapse

to explain this lack of fealty, this crevasse
between fear and desire. We are animals.

All day you (I, we) reach under
our clothes to find evidence of dreams.


First published in the North American Review. Reprinted with permission of the poet.

Read work by and about this poet here, here, and here.




Athena Kildegaard is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Course (Tinderbox Editions 2018), available here. Her poems have recently appeared in or will soon appear in Conduit, North American Review, Ecotone, RHINO, Poetry Northwest, December, Rattle, and Beloit Poetry Journal. She teaches at the University of Minnesota Morris where she also directs the Honors Program.



Poet’s Note

This poem is one in a book-length series of poems that all take their titles from the prose writing of René Magritte. I began writing them during the campaign season leading up to the 2016 elections, a most surreal experience. Objects float through these poems unbidden, and some of them are what they claim to be while others are not. I live on the prairie, where ticks flourish all through the late spring and summer. Just the suggestion of a tick makes me feel sure that one is crawling on me somewhere. And sometimes it turns out to be true.


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