“Between Light and Dark”

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Between Light and Dark

My mother saw the “light” once, a few days
after my birth when complications happened,
mounds of blood unearthed on linoleum maze
wherever she trod.  In crash of pan and din,
from kitchen to OR, she was transported
to a view of light as bright as snow-sunned field.
It beckoned; it said, come.  Put down assorted
care; just rest; let wounds and heart be healed.
And she was tempted.  For she was so tired,
even young.  Till she remembered my crabbed face,
mottled with blue, yet red as a small fire,
and she, protesting no, chose the shadowed space,
the dapple at tunnel’s start, the ombre
of arms clasped, the crosshatch of joy with somber.

****************************
Here’s a sonnet (of sorts) for the dVerse Poets Pub Poetics prompt hosted by me today on the theme of bright shadow (in honor of Groundhog Day).

Check out all the great poets at dVerse and, if you have an extra moment on this wintry day, 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, or Nose Dive, a very fun novel. Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents!

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57 Comments on ““Between Light and Dark””

  1. claudia Says:

    oh heck.. heavy emotions in this… reminded me a bit of the apostle paul who said that he would rather prefer to be with the lord but he knows he has a mission to accomplish and because of this he stays.. and a little baby for sure is a big mission.. glad she got healthy again and could take care of you

  2. rebecca2000 Says:

    Great post. Birth…

  3. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Glad she was okay! Our children give us great will to live.

  4. Susan Says:

    O. I know she did not let you understand that then. What a love poem–both ways. And the sonnet flows.

  5. Grace Says:

    This is a meaningful take on light and shadow ~ These lines are absolutely stunning :

    chose the shadowed space,
    the dapple at tunnel’s start, the ombre
    of arms clasped, the crosshatch of joy with somber.


  6. You’ve really managed to embellish this with the light and dark of life, the fear and the risk, the cost of joy and of knowing living with a light doesn’t do anything to remove the darkness, just hold it at bay for awhile, around those you love, with love, and bravery. Or so I read. Your rhymes here are distinctive and the words you’ve chosen integral to the whole feel–I loved ombre/somber especially.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Oh good — I worried that that one was a bit awkward, though also more ambitious. I have a very hard time with the final couplet of a sonnet – Shakespearean type, I guess, in that it is very hard for me not to let it get too pat.

  7. brian miller Says:

    wow great last line..that crosshatch…scary to come so close as well…the thought of a child would bring me back as well…my fear is something would happen to them…but if it was me, that i could not protect them…

  8. Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …it touches so deeply Karin… with a meaningful sense of nobility inside packed with emotions and word-selection wise…. smiles…

  9. Myrna Says:

    What a beautiful poem. it honors your mother, her pain and her love. Hope she gets to read this.

  10. Mary Says:

    Really a strong poem of light and dark, Karin. I can understand how tempting the light must have been, and it is good that she knows that it IS there, but obviously the pull of THIS life was so strong she returned to care for you….and still lives to know you grown.

  11. kkkkaty Says:

    Wow, i think there is nothing more poignant about birth than the light and dark of it…the image of blood on the linoleum…your last lines…this is a beautiful sonnet, Karin


  12. To have this story become part of your lifes mythology – filled with your mothers love and endurance – very moving. K

  13. Anonymous Says:

    “Till she remembered my crabbed face” starting there and down so spiritual and telling. I’m no good with form and sonnets but the words and phrases are so powerful at the end rather like a drama or Shakespearean-esque. You could go on from that point to write a epic sonnet. The beginning for me was more like backstory. Or lead in. Important but not musical like the rest of your piece. Hospitals are rarely poem fodder but you handled it very nicely. Thank you for sharing.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. It is a bit awkward at the beginning. The maze line not quite right – I meant the patterns on the linoleum but may be more effective if I say “in” rather “on”. The whole thing not quite right. Thanks much for your thoughtful comment. k.

  14. Mary Says:

    Karin, feel free now to delete those comments I wrote to Kathleen trying to communicate with her. She found me and has released me from WP Hades. No need to leave the comments cluttering YOUR blog, but I thank you.


  15. Wow! This is powerful, k! You nailed the emotion and painted the scene vividly! Great writing!

  16. marousia Says:

    Simply superb 🙂

  17. janehewey Says:

    this is incredibly smooth- especially considering it is holding the apex of life and death in its hands. Your imagery “In crash of pan and din…” so good (almost makes my teeth hurt) The entire emotionally wrought experience is brought forth in a matter of fact way. I admire your skill with the sonnet form, Karin, and especially savor your final couplet.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks much. It’s funny – I get very pressured doing the prompt and poem and had thought of this poem – in terms of thinking of my mom– then couldn’t find the little notes I’d made for it after I finished the dVerse Prompt, so felt kind of pressured, and didn’t think I could get something pulled together. For me a form is very helpful as it makes up for not knowing what you want to say exactly. k.

  18. Rallentanda Says:

    Such a beautiful moving poem. and I do not think it would have been as effective without the form. I am going to keep that in mind. Use a form when you have difficulty in what you are trying to express. Enjoyted this one very much.


  19. What a powerful poem, that shows the amazing power love can have that can give the strength to let go of that calling light. Beautiful write.

  20. Deborah Says:

    Purveyor of greatness ~ every emotion clung to my throat!


  21. wonderful word choices here Karin. Love the flow and quite a brilliant example to the definition of Bright Shadow. Loved this. Thanks

  22. Tony Says:

    There is great depth in this poem – and I thnk the sonnet form helps it to not become overwhelming, which a longer form or free verse might.

    I think the first quatrain is a bit awkward: it sets the scene but I suspect some of the word choices were driven more by the sonnet rhyme scheme than is desirable. That said, I’m not sure what I’d do to try and improve it if it were my poem ~:

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, it is a bit awkward. The line with the maze does not work quite right I think and maybe some of the transporting. I mean it to happen in a kitchen, which is where it did happen, but not sure that comes out.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ps – thanks for your comment. I was anxious to get something up for the prompt, but agree it needs more work. k.

  23. David King Says:

    The first line had me in its thrall — and then the poem got better line by line. Marvellous! A joy to read and re-read.


  24. The emotions flow through your beautiful, short and intense poem. Many thanks. I loved this.

    Greetings from London.

  25. Sabio Lantz Says:

    First, the praise:
    I enjoyed the sonnety rhymes.
    I could here the scuttle in the OR
    while they tried to stop the hemorrhages.
    Wombs can be so rebellious!
    Your mum tried to die but ignored the light
    for your shadowy mottled presence instead.
    I’m sure she is happy for her decision.

    Now for the criticism:
    hmmmm, trying, trying, … damn, I give up.
    Can think of any.
    🙂

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Well I think some of the lines at the beginning don’t work so well. But thanks. k. PS – I thought you were going to give the medical explanation of “seeing the light” – I’ve read vaguely something about this recently – that when people lose lots of blood the brain begins to shut down to conserve energy and goes to this kind of whiteness in terms of vision. I haven’t really followed this issue but apparently there is some thing like this. Come on, Sabio! This is your territory!

  26. ND Mitchell Says:

    This poem brought tension. The description of light is so well done.

  27. Mama Zen Says:

    Wow, this is moving! Beautiful writing.

  28. zongrik Says:

    you make childbirth seem so horrible. well, i got put to sleep for my c-section, so i don’t remember. i just had a granddaugher, and she’s gorgeous. your poem reminds me of alllll the blood…..very DARK side of having babies.

    hades gate

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Well, my mom’s situation was unusual. She was fine until a few days after the birth. And then after the problem, she was fine again. But, of course, having babies is a pretty big deal! k.

  29. Bodhirose Says:

    Your little “crabbed” face pulled her through…so powerful the will to live for our children’s sake. I can feel the intensity of that time and the almost wanting to give in to the comfort of staying where she was… Such a well-told story of strength and fortitude. Having babies IS a big deal…


  30. So glad she did not leave you that young… this is beautiful. I had a similar experience, but it was during sleep deprivation and I “cried out in the night” and got a glimpse of what’s on the other side of “the membrane.” Beautifully realized, and also (as Bodhi said), a reminder of the ordeal of pregnancy and birthing. Peace, Amy

  31. Pat Hatt Says:

    Wow, sure must have been rough. Glad she got through and able to ride through life with you.

  32. dani Says:

    “and she, protesting no, chose the shadowed space,
    the dapple at tunnel’s start, the ombre
    of arms clasped, the crosshatch of joy with somber”

    amazing!!!

  33. lucychili Says:

    wow powerful. beautifully told.

  34. Imelda Says:

    How beautiful. You wrote so beautifully about the dangers that mother’s face at delivery, their courage, and the love they have for their young. I love this poem. 🙂

  35. Lucid Gypsy Says:

    Wow, deep and dark, I’m so glad she chose the light.


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