Kathi Wolfe


The following poems are excerpted from Kathi Wolfe's chapbook The Uppity Blind Girl Poems.


Uppity's Mother Wishes Her Daughter Happy Birthday
                Thanksgivukkah, 2013
Listen to Audio Version

As I light the candles in the menorah,
we sing "dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,"
and the dog begs for bites of leftover turkey,
you, your Dad and Sabrina fight for dear
life over the last sweet potato latke.
If a bookie had taken odds,
who'd have bet that we'd ever see
such an evening — an overstuffed bird—
ready to burst with gratitude and light?

No one, twenty-five years ago, when you
burst forth on a cold winter night —
disrupting the Festival of Lights.
Then, looking into your unlit eyes,
I saw only a gray whirlwind.

A West Side Job pacing with you
in my living room on 79th Street,
I demanded of God: Have You no eyes?
Can You not see what You've done?
What's in Your unholy bag of tricks
for my baby Elizabeth? Selling pencils
on the street corner? Stringing beads
like Selina in a Patch of Blue? Begging
as jaded strangers look away?
Your Festival of Lights is a boil
on the flesh of Your darkened universe

Still, no matter how hard I tried to blindfold
myself, Elizabeth, you were a rogue laser
beaming everything within reach. At five,
when you ate your best friend Eddy's
chocolate bears and devoured the treats
as if you were the whale swallowing Jonah,
a ray sneaked on to my field of vision.
Damned if the sun didn't shine, when in middle
school, you stole second playing softball —
a beep telling you when you reached the base.

Light leapt through the window on the day
you started your blog and told me,
Literature is my utopia, Helen Keller said.
I'm not a Helen wannabe. I'm going
to map the Twitterverse like explorers
of old named the constellations

No wonder we call you Uppity!
A quarter century on, no one
can dim your star-studded shine.

* * *

Justine's Valentine for Her Sister Uppity
Listen to Audio Version

Thief, from day one, you stole
my teddy bears, chewing gum;
for more fun, you jumped
into my bubble bath, spashing,
with perfect pitch radar, soap
into my eyes. You're like me
, you giggled when I wailed
that I couldn't see, don't cry,
the shampoo smells like peaches

Brat, early on, you moved me,
a pawn, across your chessboard.
Ruled by your shadow-sister eyes,
I could see I'd never get to say
checkmate. When, Homer
in Central Park, you sang
of unicorns in tails and top hats
smoking pot on the lawn, I
couldn't resist your siren song.
I followed your cane high
up to the sky: even when you
told Mom that only I was stoned.

Witch, from the time before memory,
you've bewitched with your trickery,
taken the spotlight in every room,
bewildered with your mystery.
Yet, there would be no light
if not for your dark coven.

* * *

Love at First Sight
Listen to Audio Version

In an elevator trapped
between the fifteenth and sixteenth
floor of her apartment building,
Sunday morning, Elizabeth, her cane
in one hand, coffee and bagels
in the other, just in from the deli,
met Sabrina and her poodle Toto.

Maybe it was Toto dancing
like a flying monkey
around Elizabeth's cane, the wind roaring
through the elevator shaft like a twister
barreling down on Kansas, Sabrina's
pomegranite scented hair, or Elizabeth's
ruby red flip-flops. Calling loudly
for help, pressing the emergency button,
needing to pee, they were headed toward Oz.

A week later, Elizabeth and Sabrina, in bed,
followed their own Yellow Brick Road,
dreaming of rainbow ballads and Wizard blues.

"Will she have red or white?"
the bartender asked Sabrina
as she and Elizabeth sat,
holding hands, at the Tin Man Pub.
"She'll have an Old-Fashioned,"
Elizabeth told the server.

"Elizabeth," murmured Sabrina,
"Call me Uppity," she said, "I'm the door
that won't stay closed, the spy who cracks
the code. No wicked witch will melt me
here with my sweetie in the Emerald City."

* * *

Maybe Chicken Little Wasn't Paranoid After All
Listen to Audio Version

Uppity, toes dancing in her soft shoes,
fingers tapping her her cane,
knew why Chicken Little had been afraid.

She was just calling the shots,
the shots as she saw them, using
state-of-the-art technology of her time

to place her best bet on when the heavens,
seemingly as secure as the king's castle,
would fall, Uppity thought, toasting

her 21st birthday with a Bellini with two
girlfriends in a Soho bar. Intense, if neurotic,
sky-watching, spot-on detection, acute

acorn observation were the top
predictive indicators in Chicken Little's
era. But, she'd left dumb luck

out of her prognostications, Uppity saw,
just as the doctors, those oracles,
had at her birth in 1988. The oak seed,

the gods fastening the clouds to their hinges,
kept everything safe for Chicken Little. Still,
Uppity knew why Chicken Little had been afraid.

She'll never amount to anything, the doctors,
the seers of the land, told Uppity's parents
at her birth. Never move the furniture,

never let her walk alone, much less ride a bike.
Who knows if she'll ever learn how to eat?

they'd asked as if the sky had already fallen.

Maybe the docs were using state-of-the-art
technology of their time, Uppity thought,
sipping her cocktail, calling the shots

as they saw them for people like me.
But, they'd left dumb luck out of their
prognostications. Her father believed

in poker, her mother worshipped
Fred Astaire. If the sky did fall,
they never saw it.


Wolfe is a poet and writer whose chapbook The Green Light was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. She was a finalist in the 2007 Pudding House Chapbook Competition and her chapbook Helen Takes The Stage: The Helen Keller Poems was subsequently published by Pudding House. Wolfe's work has appeared in Gargoyle, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly Not Just Air, Wordgathering, Breath & Shadow and other publications. She was a contributor to Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Wolfe has received a Puffin Foundation grant and been awarded poetry residencies by Vermont Studio Center.