Poems between Dragons | Beth Kurkjian

Fire Scorpion  (2017). Courtesy of the author's ten-year-old son, Charlie.

Fire Scorpion (2017). Courtesy of the author's ten-year-old son, Charlie.


I don’t write poems
don’t think about
either, except when someone1
kills a lot of people

and I feel small in the
one that is not precisely, specifically2 mine,
but feels closer
than it should.3

I can’t help but think
about shows4 and music,
about viewers
immersed in a cathartic5

I can’t help but think
about people in a
space of worship
gunned down
and not see a larger
devious strategy.

Such attacks can unsettle even more
than death due to a senseless
truck or 6 subway


Our quotidian lives in public7 are already on a teetering fence
and we feel, maybe, closer to being snatched
at any moment,8
sacred places can
make us feel and think in poems—
feel weirdly
secure and spinning
in an internal sphere
like home.

I don’t know how we may ever
shelter sacred spheres
from those who aim
to pierce them

but the gloom
can open up a poetic space.9

It pushes me to scribble
in a hastily found notebook
on a few blank pages
between my son’s dragon doodles.


1 (a lot of times lately)
2 (yet)
3 (ever)
4 (in my line of [performance studies] work it makes sense)
5 (well, ideally, I suppose, no?)
6 (I [we] could go in any of the ways)
7 (of course, at times, in private, too)
8 (numb-like?)
9 (it did for me, now, in my own home)

Notes on Contributor

Beth Kurkjian, Ph.D. is a Senior Language Lecturer at NYU; she currently teaches writing to Tisch School of the Arts undergraduates. She has published in TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Paradigm, and Women & Performance. As a dance theater artist, she has performed in works by Ken Nintzel, Juliana Francis, among others, and with the GAle GAtes et al company. Kurkjian performed her own solo work in NYC at PS 122, the Ontological—Hysteric theater, Dixon Place, La Mama, and Galapagos and at the ICA and Shunt in London. She has directed at Skidmore College and choreographed dances for Barnard/Columbia theater productions. Kurkjian has choreographed a number of productions directed by Alice Reagan. A doctoral graduate of NYU’s Performance Studies department, her scholarship specializes in post-1950’s, experimental, New York-based performance.

Women & Performance