Power lines over a field on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation
“Near Gate 110A” from “Chain Reaction: Circum-navigating the Hanford Nuclear Reservation” (Zach Mazur)

Pronunciation: kī–ō’–tē, chiefly Western kī’–ōt

After years away,
I met you again on the tongue
of an old friend from home. Kī’–ōt.

Trotting through sagebrush. Wild
by any name. I’d moved to a green isle city
that pronounced you kī–ō’–tē

and abandoned you by the side of the road.
I’d forgotten your silver, slope-shouldered form
and gaze.

You’re not a citizen of language or memory,
but I am. Changing your name
was a betrayal of home

born of living among outsiders,
born of looking back through outsiders’ eyes
at interchangeable houses landscaped

with wishing wells and pansies.
I could never love the brown hills around us.
Now, in the city, who can love the desert in me?

–ōt. Kī–ō–tē. You live outside pronunciation.
I’m become like you
and can’t say your name either way.

From Flenniken’s second collection of poetry Plume, University of Washington Press, 2012. Recently she was named Washington’s poet laureate for 2012-14.

Web extra

Video: Plume, by Kathleen Flenniken