a guard in the blossomed darkness, as she rubbed off pink,
he turned from the gloom of what walled lay ahead, to peer
into her glow, watch her mouth the words, “no chances,”
between the wipe-away of lipstick, spit in their last
handkerchief, as if erasing the tracery of smile
could secure safe passage.

He wished it were so, and tried to count up luck
in corridors slipped through, but the garden’s indifferent growth
rooted him, despairing, into place, made him wonder,
as rose rubbed grey, whether they should not close
their eyes for this next leg, masking the whites
against thickening night, begging blind faith
to lift them above
stacked stone, flashed fire, blackest
boot-tip.  Instead, he pressed only his own
lips closed, clasping
her hand.


Here’s a very draftish poem that I wrote in response to Susan’s prompt on With Real Toads to write something that began with a last line of an earlier poem.  My earlier poem “Pink” is a sestina, that ends with this poem’s first line.  

It was an interesting, difficult, exercise.  I confess that this poem, which had about a zillion very different (and possibly more sensible) iterations earlier today, was influenced by my discovery that it is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I don’t pretend that this really expresses much about the Holocaust, only that this set me thinking along slightly different tracks.  

There is a beautiful and terribly sad pictorial essay in the N.Y. Times today about what happened to a couple, the wife Jewish, staying at an Italian hotel, after the Nazis came to visit.  The story may be found here.  (Again, the poem really has nothing much to do with this story, just caught in the atmosphere.)  

I am also linking this to dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night. 


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48 Comments on “Escape”

  1. Pamela Says:

    This reminded me of the movie “Sunshine”, which I just watched for a second time in two months. It is about three generations of a Jewish family. I really like what you did here, Karin.


    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Pamela. It doesn’t work as well as I wanted – I had a very different idea that I just couldn’t go with finally, but it’s all interesting to try. Thanks much. The movie sounds good. k.

  2. Susan Says:

    O my. Moved by your poem, I read all of the back material, and now can see this only through the NYTimes’ article and “Pink.” So, K, what moved me first was “rose rubbed grey” in all the ways you show this–erasing smiles, spit, handkerchiefs, counting luck, hiding the whites of their eyes, his lips, her hand now attached to certain death and the matter of fact words that horror is maasked by. Brilliant. Thank you..

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks, Susan. I appreciate you reading all the back up stuff. I had a different poem in mind, also about escape, but once I happened onto the other story in the Times felt compelled to change it, though I am not so grandiose as to say it is about that. Thanks for the very interesting prompt. k.

      On Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 10:16 PM, ManicDDaily

  3. Very descriptive, this reads like a scene from a film … i can picture the characters, their emotions and movements … beautifully written 🙂

  4. This touches me so with its bittersweet pain….tender moments in the tragic. Such a moving poem.

  5. David King Says:

    It was a good prompt and you have put it to good use. The poem works really well for me. (I often find that some of my best poems result from a coincidence of two ideas, as here.)The first line and the fact of Holocaust Remembrance Day spark well together. I find the poem full of suggestions and hints of all kinds. An excellent choice, finely executed.

  6. Mary Says:

    I’d say this is a poem of ‘atmosphere,’ and you definitely have described it well. One could come up with a short story to write from this!

  7. brian miller Says:

    very nice story telling k…you really put us right in it…and having perused the back story as well, it see it too…bittersweet is a good word for it…you pinged my heart…

  8. Marian Says:

    no chances. argh.

  9. I remember that sestina (and enjoyed the chance to read it again–it’s a bit like Elizabeth Bishop’s in evoking the sometimes occluded world of women) This poem seems quite far from it in a lot of ways, despite the shared line, and the sense of fate–much more a poem about the forged bond between a couple, though it does partake of that same feeling of humans in a sea of combat against circumstance, petty and writ large. I didn’t read the Holocaust anecdote, as yet, so I’m just seeing that as a dim backdrop of what leaves the taste of desperation on the tongue here. What comes through for me is that without each other we are truly lost. Favorite lines are the garden imagery, greying in the sad light of fate and cruelty, the idea of wiping a painted smile, a gaiety away, to sacrifice it, or one’s vision for one’s life, is also strong. A very strong poem all around, in fact. Fine writing, k.

  10. janehewey Says:

    my favorite line is your second line. You have captured incredible amounts of hope and despair while rooted in a short, life-changing moment. The clasping of her hand at the closure becomes a gesture of love, broader than the hope flickering in pink and grey. wonderful.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Jane. You know, I get in a frame of mind in which I can’t bear to look at something after it’s up – which is my current state – everything seems to fall short of what I intended or might have done that I find it just excruciating to go back – so I can’t remember what I ended up with as second line, but I will remember this for the time when I have the will the resolve. k.

  11. “tried to count up luck
    in corridors slipped through,”

    I love this segment and I enjoy thoroughly that this feels as though it were extracted from an intense and twisting novel or memoir!! Thank you for giving us the background or your atmosphere as you state it. Great write!

  12. I find your poetry fascinating to read, Karin. The mood is quite dark in this piece, and I thought the image of the wiped off lipstick was inspired.

  13. I loved the innovative streak of your poem and how it combined with a previous one. I love it when poets pose themselves challenges. I get to enjoy the spoils.

    Greetings from London.

  14. Luke Prater Says:

    Active narrative and strong use of colour. Feels like you could both expand on it and pare it down too, somewhat.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      It does sort of fall between two stools. When I originally started it, I was in fact thinking of a fantasy novel that I have written–it’s quite different, but has an escape through a garden. k.

  15. Deborah Says:

    Had to catch my breath! Brilliant ! R. Browning would applaud ~as I do. Sincerely Debbie

  16. claudia Says:

    awesome story telling here k and fantastic lines like…as if erasing the tracery of smile
    could secure safe passage….so good…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Claudia. I was going to try for another new one today, but life includes a job! Also, i don’t know if I told you, but I am moving relatively soon. A good move I think, but very stressful, k.

  17. zongrik Says:

    this is so tender. before i read what it was about, i thought it was about a homeless couple…

  18. ayala Says:

    Great storytelling.

  19. hisfirefly Says:

    sweet, bitter story, words flow

  20. “the garden’s indifferent growth
    rooted him,” this line actually ties in well with the Holocaust….perhaps it was subconscious, but there is a link here.

  21. Andy Sewina Says:

    Yeah, this is good stuff, I just want them to escape!

    Mine’s HERE

  22. Glenn Buttkus Says:

    Karen, somehow though the world of the poem is misty vague, the through line & thread of a couple facing transition, perhaps death, rolls out with clarity & mounting emotions–reminds me a bit of a Leonard Cohen poem about the holocaust, or was it one of his song lyrics. I tackled the holocaust theme last year, and it punched my in my own gut while writing and reading it. Strong ride, thanks.

  23. I know what you mean, Karin. I sometimes–maybe more often than sometimes–set out to write something, and find myself going off the track into another world. I could sense that–or something–as I read this, and you confirmed it with your afterword. After reading your explanation, the poem made perfect sense. Well, as perfect as my mind could determine!

  24. ladynyo Says:

    K….have no doubt. I think this works very well. It is heartbreaking and you wrote between the obvious lines…and I believe this can be most and more affective. Marvelous, it pulled me into the horror to come.

    PLEASE! When you have time…read Keith Lowe’s “Savage Continent”. This book has impacted me deeply, and answers so much of what was to come AFTER WWII. Did it ever end? Not really.

    Your poem is sharp as a knife and cuts right into the essence of fear.

    Lady Nyo

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Jane. I will get the book. The poem actually comes from a scene – very different – but with an escape from a young adult fantasy novel that I wrote and want to get back to. So hard to make time. Thanks. k.

      • ladynyo Says:

        Oh, K…you know what I think about novel writing! Get back to it. Writing a novel regenerates one. It’s priceless what it does to the grey matter. LOL!


      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Yes. I think I have to cut down on blogging. I like the community, but I am very stretched at the moment. k.

        On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM, ManicDDaily

  25. beckykilsby Says:

    very striking use of colour and texture here.. along with the line-length makes for quite a muscular piece. Dense – worth penetrating too.

  26. nico Says:

    begging blind faith
    to lift them above
    stacked stone,

    This is very powerful–you skillfully capture feelings of fear and uncertainty. Great job!

  27. Kim Nelson Says:

    VIVID! I feel the cold fear and see the garden, filled with rich color and elements of interest, even though it must be fled through and not enjoyed.

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