May the Child Be at Peace

May the child be at peace.
May the child’s peace radiate to all in her grasp.
May the child’s peace radiate to all whose grasp she is within.
May the pedophile be at peace, and the coyote.

May the child soldiers’ commander be at peace.
May the commander’s arms dealer be at peace
and the arms maker
and the investor
and the pensioner
and the inventor of money.

And you and I, my friends, and you and I.

…….This poem was previously published by Narrative Northeast and in Post-Catholic Midrashim.


Do astronomers not name
the stars behind the stars,
the ones they can’t see?
Do they believe an eclipse can actually block light,
that even a source of light may be too solid
to let light through?
No, I’ve heard, they can see what’s hidden, as light bends
like water around river rock.

Electromagnetic radiation is an exchange, light for light.
Gravity, too, weight to weight.
Giving and attracting; holding and letting go:
Who is the teacher, who is taught?
What is separate?
We have all been
in and out of these states of communion
before and will reunite again.

Oh Great Mystery: forgetting
             & returning;
……& cycling:

Yes, there are no full eclipses in this universe.
Only some alignments cause
a temporary loss
………………………………………………………of blindness—
the blindness that comes from too much light.

The bitterness of the ancestresses/spit upon me

The bitterness of the ancestresses
spit upon me

What did I do wrong
my child self wanted to know
Nothing but to exist
to be hers
…………………………………..out of her body in spite
……………………………………………………of herself
………………………………… spite perhaps
…………………….her love
…….her love of sex, surely
her pulchritude, my dad would call it
in us,
her unwanted daughters

In age and decrepitude
my mother has finally had enough
of so much,
finally heard enough

It was her own monsignor,
in the end, implicated,
pimping his own parish,
who prompted her to turn her back
on the church

which means she faced me now

as she began to make comedic confessions
to anyone

“Bless me father, for I have sinned…
I think…maybe…
I wasn’t supposed to have all these children?”
and she laughs her demented laugh
now that dementia frees her mind
“Do you know what it’s like, Father?”
and she laughs hysterically
in spite of the hysterectomy

Not just in spite, to spite.
She spits the bitterness
of our ancestresses.
I dodge
like only an abused child knows how
standing a little narrow
one hip back
a little twist of the spine
to be ready to spring

Then, safe
then, curious
I look for these women
light years from their passing
We pore over the sepia and silver prints
the black paper corners loosening

This, dear reader,
is light years of progress from the arguments
we used to have about whether abortion
is moral, which always ended: “If I
believed in abortion
you wouldn’t exist.”

I’d laugh: inconceivable!
…..To hear a speed-reading of this poem as part of a Pecha Kucha (presentation of 20 seconds each for 20 slides), check this video. The poem starts at 1:22.

    This poem was previously published in Incandescent Mind and Post-Catholic Midrashim.

Toe in


It’s not just his shoes. 
Here are his skates.

Filling them means putting on the old steel-toed boots
the night before, grabbing a shovel, and
heading down to the pond to clear snow off the ice.
If it’s going to be cold enough overnight
you can use that snow to dam the out-stream
with a berm just high enough
to let the water rise
over the bumps in the ice.

Back inside, feed the fire in the stove,
and set the wet socks and boots to dry nearby.
Next morning, pencil the angle of the sunrise
on the window sill and date it,
check the indoor/outdoor thermometer,
make a fresh fire.
Step feet back in warm socks and stiff leather,
and test if the pond’s new surface is frozen solid.

To fill his skates means to leave them at the bottom
of the ragged cardboard box where they’ve been
since you got yours,
to follow your kids
as they wobble towards the pond on theirs.

Broad-faced smile
alternating with stern warning,
watch the kids glide,
but keep tracing the edge of the ice
with one toe.

This poem originally published in Preliminary Visions, now available at Stillwater Books.

Learning to make peace

After a day of trailing my mother
from house to house or along the beach
gathering signatures on petitions,
our table conversation would start something like this:
What if America had not fought in World War II?
How else can you stop an aggressor like Hitler but with war?
Isn’t peace without justice just another form of violence?
And someone,
maybe it was one of us kids, saw a way:
what if the German people had not supported, succumbed, colluded?
Or what if the members of the S.S.
had turned toward peace?
It became clearer and clearer,
as did my mother’s voice in these conversations,
that in Vietnam, we Americans were the perpetrators and the collaborators.

We were the ones with the most power to make peace.

Meanwhile the news came in body counts and draft numbers,
riots, conventions; conventions that turned into riots. Pacifists demonstrating
that protests don’t have to be riots. That peace could be deadly fun.
And there was my dad, watching vigorously, studying, shouting.
Other nights I spied from the top of the stairs, long after bedtime,
the Democrats in our living room, choosing delegates to those conventions
or the League of Women Voters planning a debate.

But the best debate team was there around the kitchen table.
There at the head was a man, a good soldier from the Good War,
trying to be the best he knew—
so brave and yet so afraid to think the wars he had fought
might be wrong—
and there was the miracle
of my parents’ marriage:
words could make change, love could make peace.

One day he wrote a letter: the war should be stopped,
Signed, Naval Reserve Captain, our father’s name.

Ten thousand petition signatures, and this one letter:
a man of violence
turned toward peace
before our eyes.

I have received many gifts from my parents,
But no greater gift than this.

Conversation with filaree

(Erodium cicutarium)

Here is the clock plant,
some call it filaree.
Its seed tails – the styles – spiral around each other in a long,
slight twine.
Five petals turn
into five seeds and five styles,
looking like one spike.
On a hot day the styles will peel apart
and pop! into the air.
The seeds spring,
tails following,
the pointy end of each seed going first,
tiny javelins.

The point might penetrate the ground.
But if it doesn’t, no problem.
Like a ribbon slid across a scissor blade,
the style curls up into a corkscrew
and as it turns, it points and augers the seed into the ground.

Next rain, the style unfurls.
Next sun, the style spirals tight again,
screwing the seed deeper
into the still-moist soil.

Under hot sun, above hardpan soil,
as the green of the coastal grasslands
turns tan along Zayante Canyon,
bright orange poppies litter their petals.

My lover and I lie, a blanket between
our thin skins and the prickly plants
who will stay the summer.

He picks up a living clock spring:
a seed and its tail, curling like a corkscrew,
tail spiraling out in a tiny funnel.
He twirls the seed
between thumb and finger,
finds more on the ground.

‘It’s a clock plant,’ I say,
though time
is null.
Pink-lavender flowers float
a hand-height above the ground
on their almost invisible stems.

I tell him filaree’s story,
how it augers this hardpan,
how it pops and curls.

Stems and blossoms run through his fingers
and he strokes the long styles
of a flower already bloomed and gone.

We gaze into, slip into
each other’s astonishment

as a seed sprung from Filaree
hits him right in the middle of the forehead.
photo ©2004 Robert Sivinski via UC Berkeley

by Karina Lutz

first published by Deep Mountain

Quarantine Tales in “From Whispers to Roars”

One fun thing about publishing on the internet, is sometimes a poem gets accepted for publication and you forget about it for nine months before looking it up. Here’s one, “Pandemic,” about this corona, this crown of the baby’s head near birth, the light that gets around the eclipse, this glimpse of making way for a new world:

The chrysalis metaphor feels more real than ever. How in the world does something as complex as a caterpillar need to turn to amorphous fluid before becoming something even more complex and capable, as a butterfly?

Thank you to Johanna Hall for the multiple corona metaphors above. Can’t we all use a dose of positivity as we approach the darkest night of this dark year?

A ghost, an echo, animus

When I dream of you
now that it’s over,
a man sings
basso profundo

—the range my waking ears are deaf to hear—

a dirge,
very beautiful, composed, true,
nothing from this world,
nor heard before;
no question of putting notes
to page
like you do.
I don’t know how
something in me invents this,
something hears this

—song you will never hear—

I don’t have that man’s
voice, nor do you.
So who is this singing
our ending
as if he knows us?
As if it is this exquisite?

Voices of the Earth, still speaking out

A second volume of Voices of the Earth: The Future of our Planet is out. In a lovely endorsement, RI poet laureate Tina Cane says of the anthology of Rhode Island poets: “To read these poems is to be galvanized.”