Poems by Kathleen Bryce Niles (All from The Comstock Review)

Black Angel

The kitchen stove,
sainted relic at Holy Rosary rectory,
single clap of thunder
flash of brilliance
huge strike of bells
like a call to worship.

My grandmother
their West Indian cook
was scorched.

Beautiful black face
lost in bandages
white as resurrection cassocks….
dark pupils reflecting brimstone
small nostrils remembering incense
mouth round as Sunday’s host.

(and God’s sense of fair play)
separated her
from being a ghost.

The priests went hungry for some days
whining about
picking at leftovers
burning bits of meat
washing self-pity with altar wine.

The nuns
unable to eat
hovered around the bed
swathing burnt flesh in gauze
praying through smoke and ash
promising litanies reciting rosaries
reminding the saints that this was their angel.

A Crash of Rhinoceroses

Assume a skin so thick it is impenetrable.
Assume you are wrong.
In a spa, somewhere near Ames, Iowa,
huge women; a herd or more,
ponderous in resolve,
lift lead legs,
pound the floor boards,
to the earthy beat of an anonymous mambo.
In leotards of yellow,
huge vats of butter,
dream of Latin lovers who
will sculpt their flesh,
who will hear these enormous bellows
as subtle moans of ecstasy.


It was a sophisticated lie,
Decked out in top hat and tails.
It swept them off their feet
And danced them around the floor
In smooth measured steps.
It kept perfect time;
Dipped with crescendos,
Spun with innuendoes,
And pirouetted purposefully
Until it filled the dance card
Of everyone it met.

“And take my milk for gall”
(MacBeth: Act 1, Sc.5)

She shook her material instincts loose,
crumbs lightly caught on damask;
tossed them, children in the air,
to float and catch on lesser women.
Her seeds were thoughts, planted in him,
nurtured, threatened, cajoled and teased
by breasts that leaked ambition
and curdled at the touch.