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Kim Noriega: California Poets Part 7, Five Poems

Kim Noriega (photo by Sarah Luczaj)

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Kim Noriega

Five Poems

Variation on the Words Sleep Related Eating Disorder

after Margaret Atwood 

I would like to watch myself sleep,   

without eating,

which may not happen.

I would like to watch myself sleeping,

without disorder, without related eating.

I would like to sleep

with myself, to enter my sleep

as the dark wave slides over my head

and walk with myself through that lucent

box of left-over casseroles and bluegreen loaves, 

with its fluorescent sun & silver rooms,

towards the frozen cave where I must descend,

towards my worst fear.

I would like to give myself the glittering

branch, its rose-gold fruit, the single

word that might protect me

from the hunger at the center

of my dream, from the misfiring

brain at my center. I would like to follow

myself up the long hallway

again & become the calmed

neurons that would lead me back

safely, without the lit flame

of my gas-burner stove, or wandering

from where my body lies

to the taco shop drive-thru, 

to sleep easy 

as breathing air.

I would like to wake 


by my sleep, 

that my sleep would be 

that necessary

& that unnoticed.

Bough Down

and when the bough  breaks

has broken

when the baby you

cradled  a preemie you visited daily

in the NICU to nourish with your milk

falls  not in a spectacular collapse

tree    bough    cradle

but sleeping beautifully  in the blue

bean bag chair

beside the emptied bottle

her cat, Rook, purring,

rubbing his face

against her  slack hand


just one month shy

of her twenty-eighth birthday

you  bow down

to the weight of grief

                                              walk the cold floor 

         planks creaking beneath your bare feet


head cradled in your hands.

the why of it

he was drunk

he was out of his head

he was traumatized 

by childhood events

he was sad, at his wits’ 

end—defeated, depressed


she’d made him feel 

small, like less 

of a man, had said 

he was just pissed 

cause he couldn’t 

get her to suck his dick,

that he couldn’t even 

fuck her right

(what an uncouth bitch)

his attorney told us (the jury)

it mattered—

the why of it

his frustrations, her provocations

but I was thinking 

about hollow-point bullets 

fired at point-blank range

of a woman bleeding out, 

begging for the lives of her daughters

of a girl’s severed spinal cord

of the look on his face

when his wife took the stand—

just a quick glance up 

I’d have missed if I’d blinked

his black eyes

his (nearly) imperceptible grin

guess I fucked you right this time, didn’t I, bitch?

After Jury Duty (How do I love thee?)

for Ernie

Three weeks of mandated

silence, each night I’m desperate 

to tell you why I’ve come home weeping, 

again, but can only offer: the trial, 

with a futile wave of my hand.

But now, it’s done. 

We, the jury, have delivered 

a modicum of justice and tonight

when I walk in the door you say:

tell me whatever you want to tell 

and I say:

the gun—huge, .357 Magnum, 

hollow-points, shot his wife, 

left her bleeding on the floor

‘guess who’s next’ he’d told her

then went to find the girls, 

in their beds, in their pajamas

I say:

the 911 call

we had to listen to it three times

her labored breathing

her fading voice

she had dragged her body

to the bed, to her cell phone 

God, how did she manage it?

she tells the dispatcher 

her address, says ‘Hurry. Please hurry.”


In the background, we

can hear a girl screaming

‘Help me. Help me.’

We know, from body-cam footage,

that it’s Rachel, the older daughter,

who is lying in her own blood

on the bedroom floor, where she fell 

when he shot her in the spine

she had tried to run 

out the back door

but it was stuck shut.

I am sobbing now,

barely able to get 

the words out:

and here’s what really kills me, I tell you,

we know he’s standing right there

emptied gun in hand

we saw the photos, his bloody footprints

where he’d stepped over Rachel’s body

and when I look up,

I see that you 

are weeping 


After the Verdict

On July 27 after one day deliberation, a jury convicted P. Ramirez of all counts and allegations, including attempted murder, attempted manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon. Deputy DA Lorens prosecuted this case.

—Office of the District Attorney, San Diego County

Just like that—as if we haven’t been required to sit 

here, to be dragged through the wreckage of these 

people’s lives day after day—for weeks—we’re up 

and out of the courtroom. We’ve delivered our verdict. 

We’re done. We’re free to go back to our own lives, 

but instead, we linger in the hallway, all twelve of us, 

basking in the palpable relief—of the victims, of their family members, of the first responders who saved their lives two years ago.

One by one they thank us, hug our necks—weep.

I join the line of people waiting to shake your hand,

where Sophie, one of the girls the defendant tried to kill,

is passing out silk flowers she made in the hospital.

She hands me a rose, whispers, thank you, and though

my part was small, I beam at her, think of the assertion

made by the defense attorney in her closing argument:

We cannot undo what has been done. There is no justice.

And your reply:

No justice? Oh, no, there is justice.

When I reach you, I begin to cry, explaining that I, too, have

survived, that my daughter has survived. You are kind and tough,

you are here, fighting—pregnant and in four-inch heels—

for justice for two young girls and their mother, and for the young

woman I once was, sleeping daughter in my arms,

husband’s knife-blade cold against my throat.

Author Bio:

Kim Noriega is the author of Naming the Roses, released in June 2024 by Aim Higher, Inc., and Name Me, published in 2010 by Fortunate Daughter Press. She is an award-winning poet, creative nonfiction writer, and teacher. Kim has won the San Miguel de Allende Literary Sala Flash Nonfiction Prize and has been a finalist for both the Edna St. Vincent Millay and Joy Harjo Poetry Prizes. Her poem “Heaven, 1963” was featured in former poet laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry. She is the poetry editor of The Poetry Distillery and a teaching artist with The Poetry Barn. She is a certified facilitator of the Creative Regeneration Process and an expert-consultant in family literacy through the Pacific Library Partnership. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Ernie, and six cats, five of whom were once feral. More at


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