This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Kate Colby. 


Everything is an omen but doesn’t know it,
which is the opposite of the Butterfly Effect

since things don’t always have to have happened.
In hindsight, everything is an omen of everything

that comes after it, regardless of cause.
Or regardmore. There, I’ve coined it.

Everything has been coined at some point—
words and what they stand for. With eyes.

Also, things don’t any less have happened
the further in time you get from them—

even memories only ever happened
right now. I was once in a room so hot

and crowded that our sweat condensed
on the ceiling and rained back down.

I think of this every time
I walk beneath a dripping

window unit.


Métier Pants 

Cooks wear checks
to hide their messes. 

Painters’ pants are white
to highlight their own. 

Why this difference in what
we want to know of business? 

The cost of what you’re willing
to put where your mouth is. 

I’m always talking about language
leading to palliative thinking 

like a horse to drink.
Oh, and jodhpurs 

with seamless crotches
to protect from wear— 

I wear my white legs bare
with Wite-Out. 


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).