Gezelligheid 1: Kyla Sterling’s “Culling the Flock”

“Culling the Flock” by Kyla Sterling, published in Issue 11 of Radar Poetry.

Radar Poetry is one of those journals I know I can trust. Issue after issue, the poems they present never cease to give me pause – and Kyla Sterling’s “Culling the Flock” gave me major pause.

Once I thought I’d leave this town.
I could carry all I owned but there wasn’t any where
to go—just a long dirt road. A highway.
Whatever happened, I like to think she got away.

It’s a poem that makes me think of my own childhood, growing up in a parsonage in rural north-central Wisconsin, and what I would be like today if my family hadn’t moved to a mid-sized city when I was eight. I learned to ride my bike on the gravel of the church parking lot. My knees bled for weeks.

It’s that kind of realism – going out to the chicken coop, dredging the pond for a missing girl, the inability to leave – that draws me into Sterling’s poem. It’s the kind of darkness that sits outside the door when your nearest neighbor is a half-a-mile down the road.