Archive for October 2012

More Pix – New York Being New York-Crane Still Dangling on 57th Street

October 31, 2012








Above pictures are from my walk/busride home from work quite late last night.  The tall building has a large crane which came loose in the storm and has been dangling over 57th Street, still night secured.  The buses had started and were free, but crowded.  The City seems very bright this morning though and limited subway service is starting.  Still no power downtown. I’ve not been home and am running out of clothes!  A minor irritation, but an irritation!

Some (Minor) Pix of NYC after Sandy

October 31, 2012







Here are a few very minor pictures of damage and traffic.  I haven’t honestly been down to worst affected areas yet (which include where my apartment is located).   Getting around the City was quite difficult today as there has been tremendous traffic.  A lot of that has been caused by the dangling crane on the roof of a very high building on 57th Street.  Basically this means that everything going up to 57th is somewhat gridlocked and everything going down to 57th is blocked – but if you are going downtown below 57th (as in the right hand side of the picture above) you are okay.  More or less.  (Of course, I understand that there are no traffic lights below 39th.)

New Yorkers are great walkers but it’s a bit tiring.  Tomorrow some subway service will be restored. I have to applaud Mayor Bloomberg and city workers (and others) who have been out picking up tree limbs, etc. and moving ahead with the clean-up.


October 30, 2012



A woman uptown
comes home to two children
stabbed.  All the next day I hear, silently,
her screams.

Then think, as I see caught fish pulled
onto the esplanade–of how we ache
for silver linings–slitted gills grasping desperately
at thin air, metallic iridescence belly-flopping
on stone–something to be made right, fixed,
bearable–and how, to a fish,
all upper surfaces must
seem silvered – ripples plated by sun
or mist, until whipped
into the sky, it finds
that the world is not as it
has known, that there are vast portions
where neither body nor
instinct can protect, can even

So we too
forge ahead, with or against
the current, but still in the comfort of luminous
viscosity until some terrible ‘suddenly’
when we are pulled
onto a stone slab of rending gasp and bootless
throttle, where the grey of sky is at best

If lucky, we are thrown
back – and though our breathing may labor,
accordion halation un-keyed, we float at last lopsidedly, slither
at a slant.

But sometimes, some one of us
is trapped in that sharded air until, seemingly, the end
of days.

We gasp, spin, in the eddy
of their reverberating
pain, then, gratefully, guiltily,
swim on, faster,

Hi–many of you know that I’m a denizen of New York City, specifically Battery Park City, and have been evacuated a couple of days.  This poem is not really about that, but something I’ve been mulling over since last week, a terrible terrible tragedy in which a nanny seems to have killed two children and then attempted suicide.  (I’m sorry; it’s a very sad story; my thoughts and prayers go to the families involved.)   I am linking it to dVerse Poets Open Link Night, hosted by the wonderful Tashtoo.I appreciate the concern of all about the New York storm.  We still haven’t gotten home but have been very well taken care of and feel immensely lucky.  The city is also in a good mood, friendly, relieved. 

Sandy Poem (In the Midst Of)

October 29, 2012

Sandy Poem (In the Midst Of )

Do you leave the windows open
(against a vacuum)
or closed (against
wet roar)?
Curtains?  Thin but, if pulled,
the mayor tells us, might catch

Still cake
has just been made; life
lets us eat it.

A rich cake, moist (though in this warped/wet
night, it feels somehow
dry too, yellow straight-edged
wedges able to keep
their shape
like sanity, sun).  We’ve left

the windows
open–small apartment
needing air – and for a while it’s the images
from the computer sweep
us, floods
fled, though every now
and again and now and
the here/now wind
shakes with
everything, unsettling
that sliver of sweetness that sits
so light upon my
stomach, that extra pinch
of crumbs I sneaked
as part of
my serving, dumb


Trying to pass time in storm – I am the kind of suggestive person whose stomach gets more than butterflies.  Agh. So here’s kind of a poem.  So worried about my City right now – complain about it plenty, but hate to see it down. 


October 29, 2012

Actually, getting pretty scary outside right now – only sounds – intense wind, every once in a while a shout or siren.

Sandy is not a good name for a storm.  It is the name of something friendly, soft, beachy, tanned.  Little Orphan Annie’s Dog?

So glad to have left Battery Park City, a wind tunnel on even a becalmed day.


Sandy – Uptown New York (Update)

October 29, 2012


I hesitate in the middle of a big storm to mention clouds, much less silver linings.

But, as some limited compensation, these terrible situations can bring out the “friendly” in people.

Often in New York City, casual acquaintances (meaning the people you live near for years) nod (at most).  But yesterday, in Battery Park City (an evacuation zone), everyone in my laundry room, on the esplanade, or waiting interminably for the elevators, actually talked.  The big topic  – whether or not they were leaving.

If they were leaving, they talked of a friend somewhere;  if they were not leaving, they talked about how difficult it had been last year (during Irene) staying with a friend somewhere.

Dogs seemed to be a particular problem at friend’s apartments during hurricanes.

One guy (who was not leaving) explained that the brick he carried into the elevator was to be put in his water-filled bathtub.   (I never quite understood what the brick was supposed to do, but I did learn exactly which building site to go to to get my own.)

I personally had very mixed feelings about leaving.  Our building–as many stayers pointed out–is concrete.  Additionally, I’d bought a ton of food.  (Bottled water, I was to learn later, is extremely heavy.)

That said, if you wanted to leave by subway, you had to get out before 7.

So now, I am up  in Harlem (a far higher area of the City).   And people have been super kind – helping us unwedge the suitcase (with all those bottles) from the subway stairs, retrieving my necklace (from the subway platform) when my own unwedging efforts caused it to fall off.

And, although, I know there are difficult things going on – flooding down in BPC and a horrible crane dangling on 56th street–it’s been calm enough here that we could, at one point this morning, walk over to a nearby community garden, taking wet garbage for its composting operation.

Soil, I guess, goes on.

(Regardless of Sandy.)

PS – I was a bit irritated waking up this morning that we’d left BPC – the weather had been so calm at that point- but then I read about the flooding and, in the end, I really do urge people to listen to the authorities.  Terrible to make the lives of first responders worse in an already difficult situation.  That said, I know I’m super lucky to have a place to go, warm, dry, and with people I love (who compost.)  Good luck to all.

“Forced In Place” – Poem on Rape and Rant on “Rape Exception”

October 28, 2012

photo by Teresa Perin

Forced Into Place

Raped she was and sure it’s her fault,
self-assault.  That she’d been dumb
keeps her mum
till covered up, can sob
choked--could he again
shakes brain –hide, pretend–

Who she is now – raped.  And shell self
shields, with scraped-together husk,
He’d pushed–but how to shush
despair? – her down, must
not tell
–she works hard her face–
forces into place.


The above is my attempt at a Real Toads challenge by the wonderful Kerry O’Connor – to write in a quite complicated rhyming stanza developed by  Paul Laurence Dunbar.  The lovely photo is by Teresa Perin.  I appreciate that this may be a fairly intense subject for a rhyming form–and I don’t think it works very well – but rape has been (horribly enough) on my mind these days.

Here’s the thing.  The recent U.S. debate on rape has focused on certain GOP candidates who have advocated prohibiting abortion even in the case of rape, and others, who may be willing to allow abortion for rape, but have questioned its definition, making distinctions between legitimate rape and “other” (I guess “okay”) rape.  The odd thing about this debate it that it has managed to make those anti-abortion GOP candidates who would allow abortion in the case of rape seem almost moderate, almost empathetic to victims.

This is just not true.   Think about it.  Let’s say that Roe v. Wade were overturned, and we were subjected to a regime of no abortion except for rape, incest, and endangering the life of the mother.  How would this work?   Would the victim have to prove rape?  Would she need to go to court before getting an abortion? Would the proof have to be without reasonable doubt?   (And how long would that take?)  What would happen if she did not initially report the rape?  (There are plenty of reasons for this.  Aside from shame, loss of self-esteem, fear of further humiliation, fear of reprisal – there is also the fact  that many counties and states require women to pay for rape kits often costing over $1000.)

Such a “loosening” of the anti-choice GOP stance would not be a loosening at all; it is a guise.  A woman who’s already been victimized does not need a state legislature to hold her down.

Self-Portrait of Celia Pratchett (NOSE DIVE)

October 27, 2012

The prompt for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics today, hosted by Fred Rutherford, is self-portrait.   Fred writes a really interesting essay about self-protraiture and I encourage you to check out his post.  Nonetheless, I find myself shying away from a direct self-portrait, so I am posting instead the self-portrait of a character of mine, Celia Pratchett, taken from my novel NOSE DIVE (published by BackStroke Books).

Yes, I know it’s prose – but I think/hope it reads much faster than it looks (and it is undoubtedly way more fun than my direct self-portrait would be.)   Thanks much to you who try it!  The drawing below is by the wonderful Jonathan Segal.


From NOSE DIVE, by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Jonathan Segal

NOSE DIVE   (Excerpt from Chapter I)

(The hills are alive…with the sound of music.)

Maybe. But first period assembly was comatose with the boredom of teenagers. Even people’s yawns stretched out in slow-mo.

(A song they have sung…for a thousand years.) 

Then Brad Pierson sauntered to the podium. A lot of yawns filled instantly with drool.

“Yo Brad,” some girl wailed.

Brad smiled. It was a sheepish, glinty smile, the kind that commercials flash above surfboards.

I looked back down to my Bio notes, trying to cram for my next period test. Brad was in my Pre-Cal class but that was about the only thing we had in common: he was captain of the tennis team and hung out with the cool popular kids while I sang in the school chorus and hung out with Deanna, my one true friend since age five. Deanna was plenty cool in her way, but I wasn’t. For example, the title song of The Sound of Music was just then spinning around my head.

(The hills fill my heart with the sound of music.)  

I really love The Sound of Music—actually, I love the sound of almost any musicbut I wouldn’t mind if it stayed clear of my brain once in a while.

Brad, after gently adjusting the microphone, gave a cute little waist-level wave.

‘ATP stands for—’ I scribbled in my notebook.

“With the help of Principal Eggars—” Brad said.

(My heart wants to sing every song….) 

“—I’m arranging for the spring musical to be part of a new TV reality show.”

The auditorium inhaled one huge “omg.” Even the singing in my brain came to halt.

“The show is going to be called ‘Musical!” Brad went on.  “And the TV people are going to film everythingthe rehearsals, the showeverything.  And it’s going to be way better than all those other high school musical shows because it’s going to be all about us cool kids at Spenser.”

“Braaaaaddd!” someone shouted.

“Just a minute there, Mr. Pierson.”

The plaid jacket of Principal Eggars hovered beside Brad’s arm (Brad’s perfectly tanned, not-too-buff-but-tautly-muscled arm).

“The school’s participation in the TV program is not a done deal,” boomed Principal Eggars, a man who knew how to get the most out of a mike. “I only asked Brad to make the announcement today because his father has been so instrumental in making the show a serious possibility.”

A weighty pause followed as we all pictured a slightly greying, slightly heavier Brad-clone.

“I also wanted to assure you that if the program does go through, every effort will be made to avoid any disruption in your academic studies, which, as always, are the top priority here at Spenser.”

Brad gave a big ‘oh sure’ kind of nod.

“Many details still need to be worked out by Mr. Pierson, Brad’s father…and myself, of course. But if you have any immediate questions—”

Brad scooted his beautiful sun-bleached head to the mike again, “ask me.”

“I guess that’s right for the time being,” Principal Eggars sighed.

“I love you, Brad!” came a wail.

Wow.  I slowly closed my Bio notebook.

I love musicals. Yes, I sing them in my head, but I sing them out loud too. (Ask my older sister!) I am also a pretty good musical singer. (Her name is Maddy.) Not only because I’ve been practicing along with Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, and the Little Mermaid since age two (Maddy’ll tell you), but also because I happen to have this really big singing voice. (Man, will she tell you!)

I don’t like to brag, but I think I also have a pretty good singing voice. I had a chorus part in last year’s musical, even as a lowly freshman, with a couple of solo lines too.

As Principal Eggars dismissed us and I waited for my row to move, I remembered how much fun last year’s musical had been. My heart felt like dancing just thinking about it.

(To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls… over stones on the way.)

And then my dancing heart just tripped, only not like a laughing brook.

Because my heart was remembering something else about last year’s show—the clips of it posted online after the first performance.

Which also made me remember Hank.

How could I forget Hank?

Hank was my nose, huge, curved, bulbous, pointed at the tip—the bane of my entire existence.

Okay, maybe not my entire existence, the bane of my existence for the last year.

It seems odd, I guess, but until I entered high school (actually, until I saw those clips of myself in last year’s musical), I had never really thought much about Hank. Oh, I knew he…it was prominent. (My mom’s word was “strong.”) But that had never bothered me. Maybe because Hank was my dad’s nose.

I was too young when my dad died to truly remember him, but when my mom and sister and I looked at old pictures or videos, it had always made me feel proud—sad, but proud—to have a nose almost exactly like his.

But after seeing those clips last year, everything changed. It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes, or, maybe, my nose. I could suddenly see it clearly. How could I miss it? Hank was gi-normous.

As a free space opened in front of me, I straightened my backpack over my shoulders, trying to feel more positive.

(I go to the hills…when my heart is lonely.) 

It was hard. Being on TV would be way worse than being on the Internet. TV cameras take close-ups. In focus. Women in those focused TV close-ups do not have Hanks in the middle of their faces, not even women in local weight loss commercials who have lost two hundred pounds and whose noses shouldn’t matter.

I stared glumly around the auditorium. Brad was on the other side. Even on normal days, he stood out like a castle, male turret circled by girl moat. In the minutes since the announcement, the moat had swollen to a girl river, maybe even a girl sea.

The only bright spot on the horizon was Deanna, who waded straight towards me. (Deanna, who is both super tall and a little bit large around the middle, is not particularly fazed by girl moats.) Her hair was dyed silver blue to match a new book bag she carried. It looked like a bag she had made; duct tape crisscrossed its sides in a complicated geometric pattern. Deanna was big on duct tape.

Just now, random strands of hair clung to that duct tape, some straight and blonde, some curly and dark. I tried to let the sight of those hairs, which I was pretty sure were from Brad’s girl moat, make me feel better.

(My heart will be blessed with the sound of music.) 

I shook my head to get the song out.

(And I’ll sing…once… more.)

So much for that.

(Da daa da da daa.) 

If you’d like to know what happens next, get Nose Dive from Amazon, or on Kindle (for only 99 cents!)

Plaque (Friday Flash 55)

October 26, 2012



Increasingly, she had the feeling
that the only plaque she would every
be awarded would be made
of amyloid.

She pondered her acceptance speech:
“I prefer stainless actually,
mounted on some
nice bench.”

She imagined that bench
in a park. So much better than
in a brain. Not nearly so grey
most days.

Okay, okay, so what else can I think up on a late FRIDAY evening! Luckily my computer counted the words for me and there are just 55, so tell it to the G-man.

And if you’ve got extra energy, check out my books! Poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco). 1 Mississippi -counting book for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms, orNose Dive. Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents! Nose Dive really is very funny and light hearted, and 1 Mississippi is a lot of fun for little teeny kids.

Certain Songs (A Villanelle) With Turnips

October 25, 2012


Certain Songs (A Villanelle)

There are certain songs most poets like to jive —
your true love swoons, pretty tunes of longing so,
but some rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive–

They just can’t drink deep from a honied hive,
even buzz-fudget around ‘hey dilly-do’
(which is a certain song some…um… poets jive.)

They skip the main course, focus on the side,
sing odes to turnips (forget the tournedo)
for these rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive.

Oh sexy blue jeans ‘cross the blue-smoke dive;
oh peeling rose; oh first grade talent show–
are certain songs most poets like.  But to jive

in harsh-of-day-job unjust world, abide
on uptown curb the homeless crusted toe
that’s sometimes rimed–  Hearts need rough to thrive,

survive.  Suffering plumbs throat with sharp salive,
an acid against those lumps that keep voice low
in certain songs.  Most poets like to jive,
but some rhymed hearts need rougher food to thrive.


Agh!  I am posting this draft villanelle to dVerse Poets Pub’s Form For All hosted by the wonderful Samuel Peralta.  The odd thing was that I am so worried about the election that I started this villanelle focusing on the line –  “Osama’s dead and GM is alive”–but somehow could never work it in.  Yes, I know.  I need to calm down!  (And also, I think all poets pretty much deal with rough emotions.) 

You can hear the poem below.  It’s not the greatest reading, but does help delineate the pauses. 

The villanelle is one of my favorite forms, mainly because it has a built-in music.  (And also because you don’t have to come up with so many lines!)  Check out dVerse for more.  If you are interested in other (perhaps more polished) ones of mine, click here.    Actually, the most fun one is probably an illustrated one I did as a children’s story called Villain-elle.  (With elephants.)