Posted tagged ‘Going On Somewhere’

Good News, Bad News

January 25, 2014

Good News/Bad News

Good News/Bad News

And then there was the man–look!–
who fell out of an aero plane.  That was the bad news.
But, phew! he fell onto a haystack–
the good news:  that apparently his back
was not broken
through the intervention of
dried grass.
But hey! there was
a needle in that stack–bad news.  Except, wait–
he turned out to have a camel
in his pocket, which fit exactly through the eye
of that needle–good news–
for that took him straight to, do-not-pass-go to,
the kingdom of heaven, not
so much because he was a rich man
but because the haystack hadn’t worked that well after all–
not against a fall
from the sky.

This is the reworking of an old rather silly poem that is actually in my book Going on Somewhere.  I am posting it for Mary’s post “on the other hand” on dVerse Poets Pub.   Check out dVerse.  Check out my books!  

Jaipur (In Brief)

March 2, 2013



Cold inside, I foolishly drink
two cups of strong hot tea.
Now I will sit awake all night
thinking of you.


Here is an older short poem about Jaipur, called the “Pink City”, in Rajasthan, India.  The picture above is not the pink stone typical of Jaipur, but then again, the poem takes place at night.  (The pic is also from Agra, sorry! It is not dissimilar.)  I am posting the poem for Fred Rutherford’s Poetics Prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, asking poets to keep things short. 

A version of this poem is in my book, “Going on Somewhere.”  Also if you like elephants (of which Jaipur has many), check out my book 1 Mississippi (which is chock full of elephants!)  

All rights reserved in photo, poem. 

8 Mississippi!

October 24, 2012

“Eight Mississippi” From 1 MISSISSIPPI by Karin Gustafson

A day dealing with decisions has left me with little oomph for a new poem or political post, so I turn to…. MARKETING!

Above is a picture from my counting book 1 Mississippi.  If you like counting, elephants and rather watery watercolors, it may just be up your alley (or it might work for a small child you know.)

Or, if you feel like you already know how to count will enough, you may prefer Nose Dive, a very fun young adult book that features NYC, high school, Broadway musicals, phone sex (don’t worry!), and a generational discomfiture with Barbara Streisand.  (By Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Jonathan Segal.)

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

Or GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco.)  Poetry, primarily formal poetry (sonnets, villanelles, pantoums.) 

All the books are published by BackStroke Books (my own imprint.) 

Thanks for your indulgence and support. 

“Firefly Jar” Fragment(ed)

September 16, 2012

Drawing of Firefly Jar by Diana Barco

Firefly (Fragmented)

As a child, I was told that I was a star,
whose brilliance would light up the world like a jar
filled with fireflies.  In the place I grew up,
we’d crouch in dark grass, catching them in the cup
of a hand that quickly transformed into heart,
a roseate, luminescent, star part.
From palm, we would pour them into our glass,
so we could catch more, faster than fast….

Now, when I think back to that life as a star,
I see less of the firefly, more of the jar,
the air holes on top we made with a pick
used to pry nuts from shells, a sharp metal stick.
It tore holes that were cutting, jagged beneath,
and could easily pierce an insect’s bright sheath.
I think of those holes, the sharp underside
that ceilinged that glow, that unreasoning pride.


I am posting above which is a fragment of another poem for Kerry O’Connor’s With Real Toads Challenge, to post a poetic fragment – the type of language one might save in a firefly jar.  I’m not sure this fits the bill as it really is part of an already written poem – on the other hand, it deals very directly with firefly jars! 

The full poem can be found here, and is in my book, Going on Somewhere, by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by the incomparable Diana Barco.  I actually think the shortened version, posted today is better than the full poem.  (I’ve never felt completely happy with the full version as it seemed awfully bathic and more than a little self-pitying.)  Another great firefly jar drawing by Diana Barco can be seen here.

I urge you to check out all the wonderful poetry at With Real Toads.

“Flag (After Vietnam)” (A Villanelle – Spoken)

July 4, 2012

“Flag” drawing by Diana Barco

As a child, I was a school patrol, charged with the raising and lowering of our school’s American flag each day.  This was actually a very solemn post which certainly required as much care as directing kids across streets.  There were strong rules back then about the handling of the flag; these were, of course, affected by the protest movements of the Sixties, but also (perhaps even more) by subsequent commercialism–i.e. using the flag as a pattern for everything from shower curtains to napkins.  Then came all the business with the lapel flag pin, where use of the flag became incredibly polarized (and almost co-opted by various political movements.)

After 9/11 – let’s say on September 12th–flags were briefly solemn images of unity, but  their use soon became (to my mind at least) very polarized again, and somewhat jingoistic, with flags even used as antenna decorations.  As an old school patrol trained to run to retrieve and safeguard the flag at the first sight of a raindrop, I found these frayed and faded car flags rather troubling.

At any rate, here’s the poem AND a taped reading.  I urge you to check out the tape.  A villanelle on the page can seem incredibly inane–this one in particular, because its pauses that do not conform at all with the line or stanza breaks.

And finally, Happy 4th of July all, especially to my beloved country.

(Click the title for the spoken poem.  And honestly – if you are pressed for time,  click rather than read on.)

Flag (After Vietnam) Recording

Flag (After Vietnam) 

There were rules.  You weren’t allowed to let it
touch the ground.  If it did, it should be burned
or buried.  You couldn’t just forget it,

pretend it hadn’t slipped (if stained, to wet it)–
our trusted God would see and you’d be spurned.
There were rules.  You weren’t allowed to let it

rip or fray.  To be flown at night upset its
regimen, as it were.  The darkness turned
it into something buried.  Don’t forget it,

leave out in the rain; you had to get it
(getting soaked yourself, your last concern).
There were rules. You weren’t allowed to let it

pass—even at the movies, we would fête it—
until the Sixties came, and their war churned
and buried much—you couldn’t just forget it,

pretend we hadn’t slipped.  The fall begat at
least two flags—one paraded, the other mourned—
but just one rule—you weren’t allowed to let it
be buried; we couldn’t just forget it.

The poem is from Going on Somewhere,  by Karin Gustafson, drawings by Diana Barco, cover by Jason Martin. 


May 15, 2012

Side (drawing by Diana Barco)


All day I’ve seen your side
in my mind, the smooth slopes
of rib, hip, limb, like
the banks of a river.
All day I’ve strained
towards these banks
with an overflow of self,
that wash of discontent,
too quick, too fretful, to find anything
but what’s next and next and next.
All day I’ve longed to stretch out by some cove
in your warm torso–
you’re so sound in sleep–
to slide between joint, bone, flesh,
to subside.


Here’s a poem just for today, which is a bit of a tired day.  It’s not the one I’m posting for dVerse Open Link Night – I opted for funny for the Open Link – Gauguin’s Stomach Grumbles, as I think people can always use a laugh.

The above, Side, has been slightly revised from my book of poems Going on Somewhere.  The book/poem by Karin Gustafson (me), the drawing is by Diana Barco; Diana also illustrated the book.

“Cooling Off (In a March Cornfield)”

March 27, 2012

Cooling Off (In a March Cornfield)

The stalks bent down in broken-spined decay
around a squelching way to what she hoped
was fresher mind–clear of the stuffy day
where, shut indoors, resolve itself had moped.
In movement now, and mud, and steel-cold air,
she sought to shed the skin of that day’s self–
she’d bitched at him;  she knew she wasn’t fair–
but his acceptance of what, upon life’s shelf,
seemed crumbs (to her), turned lips to lion’s jaws
that tore at sense and spattered rage.  She walked
on hard; regrets to come should give her pause,
but patience (his) made self-possession balk.
So, laboring through a frozen field of corn,
she waited for redemption to be borne.

This sonnet (newly-revised) seemed to fit today’s abrupt drop in temperature.  It’s my offering for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.   (An earlier  version can be found in my book of poems, Going on Somewhere. )
Also, a question for any interested poets:  at the last minute in my re-write, I considering changing verb in final couplet from labor to “wade,” but decided against it, basically because I voted for combination of labor/borne (born) over sound effects, but am curious about other’s views.  Any thoughts:

“So, wading through a frozen field of corn,
she waited for redemption to be borne.”

Thanks much, as always.  K.

Ruby At End of February Tunnel (Sorry, only Jello.)

February 28, 2012


Here’s a February kind of poem I’m reposting for dVerse Poets Pub open link night.  (The picture is at least new, and I’m  about as proud of it as one can be of a picture of jello–)


We flew out there, then drove.
My mother, who despised gum chewers,
snapped hers loudly, pushing herself up to the wheel
as if it were the chin rest
at an eye exam.

Though my grandmother lived in Minnesota, the hospital
was in Iowa. When the rental car crossed state lines—
another source of amazement—
my mother, who only drove set routes, had rented a car—
the road narrowed and curved and my mother
cursed all Republicans.

She took the thin gravelly shoulder as
a personal affront; the lip the tires
skidded against was even worse,
an insult to FDR.

At the hospital, my grandmother’s hair cast
about her face like a bridal veil blown back.
She was better already, she said, just
at the sight of us (but we sure shouldn’t have come;
it was too darn hard).
Then pointed to a cup of jello,
which was as crimson, faceted, as a ruby,
and, at first, resisted my spoon.
“Mama,” my mother said.

Enjoy the day!  And while you are enjoying it, check out dVerse Poets Pub and the wonderful poets there, and also my books!  Comic novel, NOSE DIVE,  book of poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, or children’s counting book 1 MISSISSIPPI.       

“Girl’s Beast Heart” (“Ophelia, Ophelia Syndrome”)

January 24, 2012


I am diabolically busy this week, so am combining my response to two wonderful online prompts: Magpie Tales, hosted by Tess Kincaid, and dVerse Poets Pub open link night.    (The above is my rendering of Tess’s photographic prompt, its mood slightly offered and the “rice” more or less gone)   I urge you to check out both sites.

And here’s the poem, with a cautionary note that the language is more “adult” than typically posted here, i.e. stop right now if you don’t like that sort of thing.

Ophelia, Ophelia Syndrome

Girl’s beast heart, age ten, swims sky,
arms swinging wings, she springs
till body turns spy—
Where does complete go?
Drips from woman’s breast, ass, thigh.
She loves pining, the yearn,
craves the kiss, lick, fuck,
finds contempt, klutz lust, mucks
about in briny shyness.
Making boy-man God-king
slits wings.  Rubs a zipper
into her skin to mend it,
hoards opalescence.

Further notes–the poem was inspired from a discussion, popular a few years back, about many girls’ loss of confidence at a certain age.   It was actually written as part of a “magnetic poetry” exercise (for a party), in which only words on a specific list could be used.  For those interested in the mechanics of prompts and the wayward mind, the other poem I wrote from that same list deals with peeing in the ocean.  (Both poems are in Going on Somewhere, available on Amazon.)


(I am also postinf this for Jingle poetry picnic on

(Sort of) 1960’s “Block” Poem

January 17, 2012

"Block" (Poem by Karin Gustafson, Image by Diana Barco, from GOING ON SOMEWHERE.)

I have been thinking about the 1960’s, perhaps because of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday yesterday, so here’s a (sort of) 60’s poem (though not about MLK Jr.)   The poem is also published in my book of poetry, Going on Somewhere.(Check it out!)  I am posting it here for the wonderful dVerse Poets Pub open link night.


Right-angled in the newer areas,
our curb was smooth, sloping into
a chenille of pebbled tar
that bubbled below our skate wheels,
grinding up to spine,
a gravelly shiatsu.
Bare knees as gravelly, the memory of
scrapes embedded in skin, we sat with them up
till the white truck jingling
fairy dust turned in, spreading both
joy and panic, then ran for

I had a working mom and so
had funds enough for a drumstick, real
ice cream, but
hid the extra change deep in a pocket
where only straight fingers could
touch bottom, joining
Patty and Susie and Celeste, the
Catholic kids, with houses of siblings,
chores, and, hovering in their stories, nuns
(rulers at the ready)—
Patty the pretty, Susie the plain,
Celeste Celeste
Celeste, who, arms outstretched, could walk across
practically anything,
Celeste with the six brothers
who constantly rat-tat-tat-
played war—panting for the
popsicle of the day.  Sometimes it would
be root beer, that sweet-strange amber we hardly
dared lick; pink lemonade a purer thrill
in our specific honor.
The new houses started at the next
corner but no one sat in front of their
flatter spindly-treed lawns.
Did those houses even
have kids?

Later our side changed too.
Patty only came out to dry
her nails; Susie didn’t feel
like playing; and Celeste, Celeste,
Celeste’s father came back from
Vietnam, a different man.
Her brothers who’d crawled under bush,
up tree, their finger guns poised,
were not to be seen.
It was dark behind
their screens, words heard only as
vibration, things shaken.

The street still,
except on the rare
blue evening as fall fell,
when a boy we’d fought in
war, lorded over on skates,
stepped out from the curb, tossing
a football hand to hand.  Slowly we’d
all appear, copping moves scribbled
on his cupped palm.  Our feet
slapped hard against the
pavement, voices loud that, yes, we had
touched with two hands.

We played until car lights glared and our
bodies smelled of cold blown leaves.
But that would be it.
We would not come out again
for some time.

(If you’re interested in a more comic take on teenagerdom, please please please check out my comic novel NOSE DIVE!   It’s a lot of fun and very very cheap both in paperback and kindle.)