Posted tagged ‘Karin Gustafson poetry’

Horse (Sonnet)

August 28, 2021
Horse Lying Down in Field


You see an old horse lying in a field
and after the alarm–is he okay?
think of your grandmother, how she wielded,
you were told, frayed rope and a cock-eyed pulley–
nothing that they owned worked right–to try
to keep a beloved horse on all fours,
believing that if he laid down, he would die,
but if they kept him up the night and more,
up, upon his hooves, all would be well. 

First, she swayed him high with her own arms,
but he was a horse. So, as he knelt,
she resorted to the hoists, as if charms
against gravity could ward off death.
How she wept, you were told, at his last breath. 


Here’s a little sonnet about a horse resting in a field and also about my grandmother, who loved horses.  A few years ago, I wrote another poem about this same story, called Colonel, that may be found here

Can Humans Smell Beauty

February 17, 2019

Can Humans Smell Beauty

She sensed him more and more
when he was no more.
His scent filled hands otherwise vacant.
“I can’t” was all she would have said,
had she said.

The scent was not of rot, or cold,
but of the boldly fresh, the warm,
that is to say, a child’s head,
sun suddenly, the sweetness of just sitting
on a picnic table
or swing,
the aroma of singing or of being able
to sing,
what you hold to your breast when you notice
your heart beating,
or hurting,
that kind of thing,
what you hold to your breast
when it’s your heart you would hold. 


For Magaly Guerrero’s prompt on Real Toads, which included the great question, which is the title here.  It doesn’t quite work as the title, but I haven’t come up with something else. 

The drawing is also mine (Karin Gustafson).  As always, all rights reserved. 

“Missives” (And First Time Light Sculpture Film)

September 15, 2012


The first time I communicated with the dead
was through the “D” volume of
my Junior Britannica.
My letter was addressed
to my lost dog, though her name, which even today
is too embarrassing for me to repeat, began
with a C.

The next time was in the shadow
of my grandmother’s casket
as I watched my aunt rub out
the lipstick she felt
too bright
for the corpse
of someone so
“I’m sorry,” I thought to my
grandmother, “but you know
how she is.”

Since then, I haven’t lost count–
communications with the dead
are not something
one loses track of – I just can’t bear
to recite the coordinates – the place, the time, the
of sobs (interior
or wracking), the wait
for blessing.

My missive
is almost always the same – “I’m sorry” in all
its permutations – for your death, for
my life, for what I did–more often, for what
I didn’t do–

You’d think that I would learn by now.
You’d think that I’d be different,
but the dead, you see,
at least the ones I talk and write to,
are so forgiving–their stroking hush
holds me, allows me to go on
even as I am.


The above poem was written for dVerse Poets Pub’s Poetics Challenge on “First Times,” hosted by Fred Rutherford (of Poetical Psyche).  The video was made of a light sculpture by Jason Martin. 

Check out dVerse for lovely poetry, and, if you have time, 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 that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.  Nose Dive is available on Kindle for just 99 cents!

dVerse Poets Pub Anniversary – Best Poem?

July 19, 2012

dVerse Poets Pub is celebrating its first anniversary this week and asks all participating poets (a group which includes lucky me) to link up what they feel was their best poem posted to dVerse over the past year.

Figuring out one’s best poem is always tricky.  I don’t know if this one is “best”, but it is a poem that is close to my heart.  It was written for a very good friend of mine, approximately two years ago, in the couple of weeks before her death from breast cancer.   She had expressed to me her concern for her children, and I wrote the poem based upon her words.

The poem is a pantoum – a form with repeating lines.  And punctuation (sigh) is a fairly important element.  I may not have punctuated right, so I recommend listening to the recording really more than reading.  It is a pretty simple poem to follow.

Thanks so much!  And thanks to dVerse Poets – Brian Miller and Claudia Schoenfeld, especially.


The Last Thing – Mother to Child

The Last Thing –  Mother To Child

For Rhona Saffer
Know, that
when I must go,
I will love you
just the same.

When I must go,
I know it will not feel
just the same.
There will be cool air—

I know it will not feel
like my lips—
but there will be cool air
caressing your face

like my lips,
while your smile only,
caressing your face
(oh reflection of mine),

will be your smile only.
I never wanted to cause you pain,
oh reflection of mine.
That was the last thing

I ever wanted to cause you–pain.
No, I would love you—
that was the last thing.
Just the same,

know, I would love you,
will love you,
just the same.
Know that.



“Determined” (To Write Visually)

February 23, 2012


Here’s a poem written for the dVerse Poets Pub Form for All challenge hosted by Blue Flute and Gay Reiser Cannon about writing visually (as inspired by the beautiful imagistic poems of the Chinese and Japanese.)   I am not sure this fits that bill, certainly not on any formal basis, but here goes.


Heavy-duty aluminum rods stand
steel straight though their coat of
red paint has worn
in places to a fatigued grey.
Staring into angled reflections
of storefront, he rests
against the braces that cup
his forearms, stretching fingers away
from plastic grips, fisting
and re-fisting free air. What he is looking for,
he says, is a coat, a jacket,
long enough to keep hips warm, but not so
long as to hem a stride
mid-hike, the fabric waxed
to shed rain; it should be green
softened by brown (a collar to turn
up against the wind) like a mountainside
mid-November, after the fall
of much leaf, before the fall
of much snow. The display
cuts light into square fluorescent grids
like nothing found in the wild.  A coat,
he says (not going in), that will fend off

(As always–all rights reserved.)

Also, please please please check out one of my books: my comic novel,NOSE DIVE,  book of poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, or children’s counting book 1 MISSISSIPPI.  Support a blogger!  Okay, let’s not exaggerate.  Make a blogger happy!)

Lavender–“When All Else Fails” (Mag 105)

February 19, 2012


Here’s my offering for Tess Kincaid’s Mag 105.

(Tess posts a wonderful weekly photographic prompt.  The original photo this week, and basis of my picture above, was by Epic Mahoney.)

I hate to double (or triple) up but, due to onslaught of demands (beside poeticizing), am also linking this to Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

When All Else Fails

And then there are those times
when one resorts
to lavender–
the scent in a drawer (tempered by cedar),
and folded inside, a kerchief with initials
cross-stitched in bottle blue–
when all has gone wrong, when
there is
last minute saving grace.

Even honey
can block a throat, lines cut, engine not
turning over, the days of horseback
gallop like the wind
no more.

Still, one pedals/pushes/pulls
through the pale of night as
across a sea or desert, holding,
in the chest of the mind, that drawer, that
handkerchief, the ghost
of lavender worn at wrists
that worked their way
through all of this before
(or something similar), the
lettered threads, cornered by
sieve edge 
of persistent lace,
signing the possible.

(As always, all rights reserved.  And as always, check out my comic novel, NOSE DIVE,  book of poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, or children’s counting book 1 MISSISSIPPI.)

Descartes With A Dash of Popeye (“I think, therefore I yam.”)

February 11, 2012


I Think, Therefore I Yam

After Descartes (With a Dash of Popeye)

I think, therefore I
yam.  I think,
I truly love
the yam.  I bake
them almost every day,
not lining their pan
with foil (as advised by those
who think before
they yam) because
almost every time I yam–late–I
yam also
hard put.

Not having planned
for existence, I slam
them fast in the oven, unable to break
for foil, the need
for sweet hot
earth-grown sustenance
surging with a force that must be
met immediately (plus
the baking time) and so
my yams’ essence
overflows, burns, and
later (usually the next day)
must be scraped away
from the pan, to
get down to something
grey again, stained perhaps,

I break then,
at least, from the brusque
thrust of scrub,
for saved slices (that soft
bright orange), finding,
though I do not think
of anything very much,
that I still
 the cold leftovers of being,
in morning’s light.

(Happy Saturday!  I think–and I’m jumping the gun a bit–that dVerse Poets Pub, hosted by Charles Miller, is waxing philosophical today.  I am also linking this to Painting Prose.)

If you have any time, and need an escape this rainy cold weekend, check out NOSE DIVE, a comic romp through the brain and life of Celia Pratchett, big-nosed, big-voiced, New York City High School student with a friend in trouble. Only 99 cents on Kindle!  Or if you don’t like teen novels, check out my collection of poetry, GOING ON SOMEWHERE, or children’s counting book, 1 MISSISSIPPI.  Thanks much!)

(As always, all rights to all aspects of this post reserved.)

“First Grade, November 1963” – overly serious odd attempt at French Ballade

February 9, 2012


(Doesn't Really Go With Poem, but Nice Drawing.)

Agh!  The wonderful dVerse Poets Pub, hosted by Gay Reiser Cannon, has a prompt to write another French Ballade today.  I find this a very difficult form–not so much because of the rhymes, but because it has a relatively short line–8 syllables, rather than my usual 10 or 11.  At any rate, here’s my second attempt.  (My first was two weeks ago and probably a bit better.  Both are a bit heavy for ballades–sorry!)

First Grade, November 1963

The day Jack was shot they put us
on the playground, our place for fun,
our place for recess, only dust
seemed to fill the air, a strange one
for November–was there some sun
showing overhead? Blur defied
blue; the word “assassination”–
we didn’t know that it meant died.

I mean, they told us, with some fuss,
the exact time, Dallas–and gun
flashed through our minds, surely it must
have, with that next combination–
“shot” and “head”–a conjugation
of the past tense (rarely denied).
But on the blacktop, our place to run–
we tried not to know that it meant died.

The older girls joined arms, their busts–
for their breasts had at least begun,
they ten or twelve–heaving with gusts
of young hearts’ plunge to the undone;
we feigned a game of horse, hair slung
about like reins, but the chase cried
out its halt, could not be won;
we could not not know that it meant died.

What to feel?  How not to let on?
Watching the big girls–hard they cried–
President shot–his name was John–
We didn’t know what it meant–died.

(As always, all rights reserved.)

“Hands On” (Steering Wheel Poem)

February 6, 2012


Here’s a new poem for dVerse Poets open link night, and also Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads.  (Check out the great poets at both sites.)

Hands On

When I think of why
we are together,
I think of your hands
upon a steering wheel.
The night was cold,
dark (the car seats stiff with it),
but the tendons–had you given me
your gloves?–ran along your grasp
like lifelines, and I needed
a lifeline.
They caught the ambients
from the headlights–inverse shadows
that I could not turn from
as you took
the curves,
then straightened;
as you laughed
about something seemingly
as I laughed too, all the time
watching them

(P.S. And while you are checking on things, check out NOSE DIVE, my comic mystery novel, which has been reviewed with great kindness by Charles Mashburn of Marbles in My Pocket and Victoria C. Slotto of Liv2Write2day on Amazon.)

Writer’s Block (Sock) Sonnet

January 31, 2012
Blank Page and Sock

Writer’s Block (Viewed from Page and Foot)

A blank page is not like a plain white sock.
It won’t warm cold feet in the night
and fits poorly into your shoe. You can’t tuck
your pants into its margins to fight
Lyme’s Disease–no, no,  it won’t allow ease
of any kind–won’t cushion the impact
of the concrete;  won’t offer you release
from a sweaty stance–so much less tact
has the blank page  than the ribbed cotton sock
(though also white and sometimes subtly lined)
that it will talk at you (snarkily), mock, 
allow no wiggle room, quite shush and bind
you, reciprocally capping all sound.
You resist?  Then it will stare you down.


The above is a re-draft of an old poem, posted for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link night.  (And, yes, to followers of this blog–I seem to have an obsession with socks.) 

I went with this particular poem because I am desperately trying to rewrite and revise a fantasy novel right now.  (The idea that I will finish the revision is its own form of fantasy!)  In the meantime, if you are at all interested in silly novels written by Manicddaily, check out NOSE DIVE, a cheap, light, fun, escapist read.