The Tunnel

Kathleen Hellen


She wears the mask of Noh when she snaps
“noisy, noisy” at us huddled in the back

of the Chevy sunk in shadow.
Ribs of soot the tunnel into Pittsburgh’s Chinatown
No radio, no horseplay. Ahead, behind

headlights fill the sockets of our eyes.
Headlights knuckled-white around the noose she calls
concentric fires. A raid of bombers
A dis-

embodied hand rolls up the window.
at the center
Dim fluorescence
The memory of Tokyo, a buried burning
rising from the ashes like a dead friend’s hand

from rubble. Skin
the same freak-grey as poisoned rain
as nameless flowers
An underground of mind
in which she hears
sirens honking at her back like darkness disappearing

into Pittsburgh’s open air, into fish stalls
and the taste of rivers she remembers
as the sea. She drinks a belly-full of tea
in a restaurant in an alley
where the girl who looks like us
serves up Fortune

in the cookie no one wants.


Kathleen Hellen is a poet and the author of Umberto’s Night (Washington Writers Publishing House, 2012) and The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her poems are widely published and have appeared in American Letters & Commentary; Barrow Street; Cimarron Review; Nimrod; Poetry Northwest; Prairie Schooner; Stand; Sycamore Review; Witness; among others; and were featured on WYPR’s The Signal.



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