Three poems

by Kell Pieper Issue: Spring/Summer 2021

At the Cincinnati Art Museum

We come for the air conditioning. We air out, climbing the stairs 
with our sails aback, Vanna Whiteing to heaven. 

From here, we whisper sweet nothings to the Madonna.
From here, you find me in Italian paintings: selling flowers,
my hat loose from my hair. 

How the marble feels on the sole of my foot, stolen out from my shoe. 

How vessel can be both a boat and a bowl. 

At the Cincinnati Art Museum

Many mechanical things: Tiffany clocks, the Pete Rose Warhol. 
Rookwood pottery. TVs welded into a man, each part of the body a face. 

Watching my coworker massage our client’s hand open from a fist is not the same thing as 
                   massaging his hand open myself.

The manual Hoyer lift is a spindly, attentive thing. It bows like a parent over the bed. 
Like anything with an absence, it suggests a body. 
A body suggested into the sling.
A body suggested by the lever, pumping the sling up & up & up.

I do not know why I notice its absence, here, in the museum. 
This is my day off. You follow me into another room. 
We watch the light through a seated glass dress, the wearer missing, her body present in its 
                   folding.

Rotating her wrist as slightly as I could, I’d file a client’s fingernails. The emery board took its 
time. We were not to trim them with a cutter. It’s too easy to tear the skin.

There is a third body: the one that guides the Hoyer lift through the door.

Remembered: when his fist unfurled, the palm of his hand was red from his untrimmed nails. 
Remembered: how he refused to release the spoon from his bite, and the sound the metal made 
                    against his teeth when pulling it out.
 

Third Shift Aubade

My coworker, in 
              the room just over.
The door open. 
              Her book open
on her chest
              having fallen asleep;
two hours til 
              her first class 
of the day.
              Little shadows 
now longer. 

My client, asleep.
              The TV, mounted 
high, flickering low 
              over his face. 
Hard breath, mouth
              up. Pulse oximeter. 
Clipping on his 
              finger, slow, not to 
wake him. The binder 
              in which we record 
his vitals. Blue ink 
              blued out under 
the thin light. 

Ninety calorie almond 
              wrapper, empty. My 
notebook empty of
              the love poems
I hoped to write
              while they slept.
Too little light.
             Too little me.
The bright unhappy.
 



Kell Pieper

Kell Pieper is an MFA candidate at George Mason University. Her parents met at a computer dance in 1985 while dancing to Rush, making her the product of the most 80’s moment to ever exist. She writes about the intersections of love, class, health, and power.