Posted tagged ‘Magpie Tales’

Drinking, Under a Blue Moon, From a Cup That Is Already Broken (Tritina)

September 2, 2012

Summer Night, Albert Bloch, 1913

Drinking, Under a Blue Moon, From a Cup That Is Already Broken

I think of the Buddha, who, when his mother
lost a child, assuaged her grief with the promise
that a seed from a home that has not known mourning–

just a mustard seed–I can get one this morning,
the mother cried
–could bring life, with all its promise,
back. Lest the child grow cold, the mother,

feet made fleet, spine steeled, with anxious promise,
rushed from house to house  – have you known mourning?
Known death? 
All had mustard seeds – but the mother–

the mother learned then–the promise–of each new morning.


Explanatory note – this is based on a Buddhist tale of the Buddha (coming back after acquiring Buddha-hood) to visit his family at the time his mother lost a young child.  He told her that the child could be brought back to life by a mustard seed coming from a house that had not known death.  The mother could find plenty of mustard seeds – a common spice in India – but no house that had not known death.  This then brought her to some understanding of the universality of suffering, and that, in turn, helped her to accept her grief.  (Yes, it’s a bit hard-hearted; not made for Hollywood.)

Also – the saying “the cup you are drinking from is already broken” refers to the fact that everything comes to an end; that its end is incipient in its beginning.  In other words – the cup is destined to be broken, not that it is actually already chipped.   (That is, unless you’ve taken it from my cupboard.)   

The poem is a tritina – a mini-sestina, that rotates around certain end words, and tries to follow a consistent meter.   I have put in the dashes to slow down the reading of the last line – they don’t really have grammatical significance. 

I am posting this for Tess Kincaid’s Magpie Tales, where Tess posts a photographic prompt each week. 

“Holding On To Your Hat”

August 19, 2012

“Under Windsor Bridge,” 1912, by Adolphe Valette

Re-covery (Holding On To Your Hat)

And then there are those times
when all that feels
in this wide blurred world
is the darkness cupped
by your black felt hat.

Something should be different.
You do not know what that something
should be, only
that it should take hold of you

And yet–and this you are suddenly
sure of – it should also leave you
with the hat.

You run your fingers over the rough curve
of its brim, the
dark abiding wool
that even now resists crushing,
resists stain, blocks
wind and rain, allows
itself to be held by you,

I’m posting the above sort-of draft poem for Tess Kincaid’s Magpie Tales, a writing blog in which Tess puts up a pictorial prompt each week. 

Check it out!  And also if you have a chance, 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.

“Here, Body” (Your Body Is Not Even Your Good Lab)

July 29, 2012


Here, Body

The body is not your good dog.
It may sit, lie down, roll over,
but there’s a limit to its Rover
aspect. No spank
will keep it from
accident; no leash
train it to the right; no yank
make it heel

You tell it what to want, but
it will vaunt
its fleshly, furry ways,
sneaking food when already fed;
taking up all the room on the bed;
whiffing what should not be sniffed;
its passion aimed at but a toy–
here, girl; here, boy–
that can never love it back.

It will decay
though you say stay. Still,
you will love it,
this not-good dog;
for even as you scold and cajole,
and despair
of calling,
you will find yourself
cradling it;
you will find yourself
in its arms.

This is an older poem I am reposting for MagPie Tales, a writing blog hosted by Tess Kincaid. Tess posts a picture prompt each week; Tess’s prompt, an image by Zelko Nedic.  I am also posting for Open Link Night of Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, a great poetry blog.  My rather silly picture, prompted by Leonardo, is above.



If you have time on this rainy Sunday, check out my books. Nose Dive is only 99 cents on Kindle – well, with ten times that much, which is its price in paper!

Children’s counting book 1 Mississippi -for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms. Or, if you in the mood for something older, check out Going on Somewhere, poetry, or Nose Dive, a very fun novel for those who are somewhat discontent with their appearance but love musicals, cheese and downtown NYC.

Looking For Coco – Channeling Chanel.

July 15, 2012


Looking for Coco

I never could channel my inner Chanel.
I never could actually find
my inner Chanel. But my mother who used to
take me to
department stores each Saturday when
I was little, while she tried on this pale suit and
that dark dress, pivoting before the glass (front
and back) in her best smile, seemed to have a very
clear Coco, so I have to think that if I just look hard enough, starting
at the heels of my orthotic-ed oxfords, through the
ribs of my bunched wool
ankle socks, all the way
to the brush of cowlick at my crown,
taking a brief, but thorough peek,
below the bruised elastic of sports
bra, I would find some deep smidgen of
But, until I do (if ever), I must content myself with
the occasional sniff of those teeny square
bottles, the sampler-sized Number 5s,
my mother saved, tucked
in the side of her jewelry case, their
scent not fading even when
the perfume itself
is long long gone.


I’m posting the above for Tess Kincaid’s Magpie Tales, where Tess posts a photo prompt.  (I’ve done my own version of the photo.)  I am also linking to the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads Open Link NIght.

Audibly Swimming in Summer

July 1, 2012

Odilon Redon, “Ophelia”

So I thought it was too hot today to write a new poem, even for the lovely prompt above posted by Tess Kincaid  of MagPie Tales and that I would re-post an older poem with (ta-da!)  my first internet audio recording.  Needless to say, the recording has required far more time (and maybe even heat) then expected, and is still very much in the trial and error phase.

But , if you’ve got a moment on this hot day – give it a listen.  (It’s a bit slow at the beginning but speeds up very quickly.)   More importantly, it illustrates  punctuation at work!  (As a tool against line and stanza breaks.)   To listen, just click.

“Swimming in Summer” (Karin Gustafson)

Swimming in Summer

Our palms grew pale as paws in northern climes
as water soaked right through our outer skin.
In summers past, how brightly water shines,

its surface sparked by countless solar mimes,
an aurora only fragmented by limb.
Our palms grew pale as paws in northern climes

as we played hide and seek with sunken dimes,
diving beneath the waves of echoed din;
in summers past, how brightly water shines.

My mother sat at poolside with the Times’
Sunday magazine; I swam by her shin,
my palms as pale as paws in northern climes,

sculpting her ivory leg, the only signs
of life the hair strands barely there, so prim
in summers past.  How brightly water shines

in that lost pool; and all that filled our minds
frozen now, the glimmer petrified within
palms, grown pale as paws in northern climes.
In summers past, how brightly water shines.


The poem, btw, is in my book of poetry,  Going on Somewhere.  Check it out or also  Children’s counting book 1 Mississippi -for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms,  or  Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.

Two Step (Completely Revised, Renewed, Sorry)

June 20, 2012
Revised Two Step

For those interested in a writer’s process:  writers (at least writers like me) sometimes overwork things and completely mess them up – especially at 2 in the morning.    So below is a poem previously posted in a much different version.  I’ve gone back to something more like the original; it’s a Father’s Day poem which is probably why it was difficult. 

Two Step

You could never really manage more than a two-step and even that stumbled to its own chuckled beat, your movements accented with a panache of abashment.

And I would watch from the sidelines, sometimes with my own more snarky embarrassment, being young and indentured to the Gods of Cool.

But the truth is I didn’t snipe much, knowing even as a teen that I could never embody such goodness, my edges just too sharp, like my mother’s nose, my own elbows.

The only time I even came close was later, when you could no longer walk, barely stand, and I brought you those old songs (Glenn Miller, your remembered sound of hope in hard times, having made it across the Channel ’44), and your feet, though unable to truly press the floor, would shuffle in that same old just-off beat, arms lifted.

And whether or not heaven is an actual place–I hate to say that I have my doubts== at least I’m not sure about one with dance floors–I feel your pulse in my head today, Father’s Day, the air around me as tuneful as those hollowed instruments = and am mindful of the resurrection of love, that incredible two step of gift and receipt only in your case it was giving mainly –that’s what you did, and perhaps why your movements always seemed a bit unbalanced, dancing.

(I am reposting this for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night and  Tess Kincaid’s MagPie Tales.  The picture is Tess’s prompt by M.C. Escher.  I am also linking to Emily Wierenga’s Imperfect Prose .)

Two Step (Go to Next Revised Post)

June 20, 2012

“Juiced” – Belated Magpie

June 8, 2012

image by Klaus Enrique Gerdes

Male Ego/Coddled Egg – The Mag 112

April 8, 2012


Male Ego

Her mother used to tell her, when she was young,
about the male ego.

The girl imagined it, from her mother’s words–
fragile,delicate–as a diaphanous coddled egg
that shimmered just above
men’s foreheads.

Her mother admitted that she herself
was not good with male egos.
This, she would sometimes sigh,
was a reason she had had to work
so hard in her life.

But the girl was different from her, the mother said–
her nose was small, and she had, 
what the mother called,
”little doll legs,” and, instead of a certain defensive
orneriness (the defect of the mom), she exhibited,
consistently, an intense desire to please.  

The girl liked her nose well enough, but every time
her mother spoke of her little doll legs,
something cracked.

She did not really want a coddled egg hovering
over her head, and yet she would not have
minded, she thought, some edge of delicate

Agh!  (I really have edited it some more now since first posting.)

The above is my poem (somewhat tortured and edited again since first posting) for Tess Kincaid’s The Mag (112) and also my 8th poem in eight days for the 8th day of National Poetry Month.   The picture is my take on the pic by Djajakarta, posted by Tess as a prompt.

If you are interested in a comic analysis of noses, check out my very silly, but I think fun, novel called Nose Dive.

Mag 109 – “Post-Mechanics” (What he had wanted was to be a Satyr)

March 18, 2012


The above and below are based on a photo prompt posted by Tess Kincaid of Magpie Tales.  The original photograph is by Robert and Shana Parkeharrison.


What he had wanted
was to be a satyr, a muscle mass
of chest and tendril, unreconstructed
curve–hair, vine, thigh, scrotum-
blip of nipple, smile, wink-
but no–there had to be a
Newton, as in Sir Isaac, a Newton,
as in a unit of force, and urges
were transmuted to
ergs, curves
turning diametrical, bolts
having to be tightened, gears
meshed, and getting caught
in the cross-hairs
wasn’t nearly so much fun
any more, everything
screwed up but