Scout & Birdie
Scout & Birdie

The following poems were written between 2015 and 2017. They are presented chronologically.


I. Summer

I’m lost again.
Dragging my heels on the way to you.
Folding my neck up, hamburger style.
to chalky zoo animals on ceiling tiles.
Guarding the door to the Pediatric Intensive Care unit.
Happy Hippo Cerberus.

A tiny unattended girl presses a silver button to open the doors.
“’t keeps the handles sterile.”
She’s holding a Styrofoam cup while she saunters through the opening
to a boy hooked up to a breathing machine
so loud I can hear it two rooms away.

I don’t know the proper term for “breathing machine”
like she does.
I can’t say it nonchalantly.
I can’t get used to this.

You’re in Room 12 this time.
Infected blood this time.
Swollen stomach this time.
Groggy and translucent.
Slurring like the toddler I met six years ago.

Still you squeeze my forearm
and we put on a talent show.

I can cluck like a chicken and
you can impersonate Zoolander
to your toy soldier officers.
I can call more often.
You can sing Suessical.
I can find more ways to tell you I love you. 
You can heal.


II. Autumn

I'm on a wasted plane flight.
I dutifully travelled
to some place
for some day
torched on this country's calendars.
I didn't put it there.

I should have flown to the pediatric intensive care unit in Seattle.
It sounds like a G-rated Pokémon sneeze.

Rowan is there.
Without me.
If I had two wishes
it would be to make him healthy
and make him my little brother.

It would be easier to explain who,
in relation to me,
is caged in bed with a betraying body.

My little guy
wearing sunny yellow oven mitts
so he doesn't deliriously rip
milky plastic tubes
out of his distended chest
and nearly bleed out.

Rowan's been there for months.
Without me.
His mother finally shattered
when he lost his eyelashes.
I don't recognize him.
I’m scared to call.

I pretend that I can sense when my mother leaves a room to start crying.
Just so I have some idea
of how her eyebrows are moving.
She still thinks I'm psychic.

I'm strapped into another airplane.
Retracing the ways I can't stop leaving.

"We're so proud of you!"
My pivotal people persist!

I dread the day
the clouds behind
my fleeing plane tell the tiny crowd
that I couldn't leave bed last week.
Or that I set fire
to thousands of my mother's
imaginary dollars
because I still can't eat.

I'm carrying a thousand tiny diseases.
In my tear ducts
and throat
and nose hairs
and eyelids
and cunt
and every fucking brain lobe.
(Is that the word?)

Painted 'em
like the vibrant bungalows
dotting toasted sand
on all the beaches
where I should have been happy.

Held 'em
like they were my newborn children
and they don't have knees.
They want to be kind to me
but we don't share a language.

Rowan is in bed.
Without me.
His organs are at war.
He's grateful
just for easy inhales.
He is sick.
I should not be.


III. Winter

Twelve hours before-
I tap out stories
on my filthy keyboard
about how I’m getting good
at letting go.

Twelve hours after-
Your heart stops in Seattle.

I technically have tools
to mourn you gracefully.
I’m armed with weapons of wisdom
to deal with grief.
But I’m flicking pebbles
at a dragon.

What I can say
is that I’m honored
to have been loved
by you.

Honored by that time when,
squeezed into a motel room
on South Padre Island,
family all around,
you prevented me from napping
by bellowing-
“UM, I love you!”
every time my eyelids grew heavy.

You were
and dinosaur cheerleader games.
while mispronouncing my name.
your birthday treasures to charity
while screeching about

You were


IV. Summer

It had to be July 21st.
I’d take cheap ink and a mummified tattoo artist.
It had to be a dinosaur foot.

This is what I have-
Lazy garnet
pooling at my ankle.
Flimsy offering
on my speckled skin shrine.

Soon I’ll forgive you
for only coming to me in nightmares.
You now cover a few inches of my body
with which I’ll always be tender.

We’ve already seen-
the solar eclipse through a tattered box of Cheerios
my roommate cutting her own bangs for old time’s sake
a toddler asking if hate is hot or cold.

It’s a poor man’s Heaven-
to be trapped just north of an aching joint.
But my whole leg will live a good life for you.

As long as I have skin-
it’s yours.
Until I push my arms
through the sleeves of the atmosphere
and nothing hurts.

Happy 11th birthday, Red One.


About the author...

Kathleen Kinlin is a writer and performer based in Chicago. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Comedy Writing and Performance. Kathleen’s writing has been published by The Queer Foundation, Say Si Foundation, The Odyssey’s Print Edition, and Columbia College Chicago’s Digital Senior Showcase. Kathleen balances her sad poetry with improvising with her improv team Sprang and is thrilled to have been added to iO’s roster of Harold performers. In addition to writing and improvising, Kathleen frequently performs solo performance pieces and sketch comedy around the city.

Twitter: KathleenKinlin
Instagram: kathleen_withitrockwithit