Karen Petersen – Four Poems
For My Late Friend, Who I Knew For 52 Years
Last night I finally saw you again, in a dream,
in a great hall at Oxford, inexplicably,
since neither of us went there
–though your mother was English, your fragile,
beautiful mother who you take so much after.
Although you are gone forever from this Earth,
what a gift to lay eyes on you and talk like old times
even if you were clearly ill and pale, you were present,
smiling at me, one more time.
There you were, working on something in your studious way
and as you looked up I knew I was gazing on someone
who was not long for this world, and I woke up crying.
Crying out of gratitude tho’, because
you came to me one last time, and that was special,
although it was clear that in that world too,
you did not have much time.
Our dreams are ephemeral but they allow us a passage
and a chance to dwell, albeit briefly, in the fullness of love
with one whom we miss very much.
While the nightmares of Hieronymus lurk in the shadows
they do not dare to come out, the light is so strong,
the light is so strong.
The early Spring snow fell as I slept,
layers and layers of it, thick,
and then the wood stove went out.
The cold, a chill to the bone kind,
woke me around 4 a.m.
Or rather the shivering dog did, so
I added another duvet for both of us
and watched as the ice crept up
from inside the window, the heavy
dark filling the outside, all very still.
And then the glow of the sun
rising from the horizon caused
the snow to begin to melt, dripping
like tears falling, with the slowness
of a grief that doesn’t quite leave.
I remember when you first arrived,
I was completely ensorcelled
by your beautiful hair, the color of straw,
and you smelled of new earth
and flowers, daffodils and muscari;
it was the cusp of Spring
and everything was turning
We were becoming.
But Memory is as seductive
as you were, and equally unreliable.
So I’m back in the chill of the present,
time to warm up the old house,
walk the dog through drifts of snow
and get on with the day.
In the Style of the Japanese
Pug fight, morning crankiness
Black blurs, wrinkly.
Dwarf ginseng blooming in the woods
like small bursts of fireworks
An old man stops his bicycle
wistfully at the new buds
as a girl’s hat
blows down the street
in the Spring wind.
Looking for the Perseid Meteor Shower
I felt a bit foolish
the front of my house
in my nightgown
staring up at the heavens
at 3 in the morning.
It was the Perseids
I’d hoped to see;
the only person on my block
awake at that time.
I wanted some signal
from the heavens
and stood there, mouth agape,
tilting back, nearly falling over,
looking at the darkness
with all its glittering beauty.
Perhaps some of the space dust,
from the many comets
would rain down on me
and I thought of my late mother
and wondered if a few of her
molecules had come from space
to be with me again:
perhaps Mozart too, and
many other people from
the last several thousand years.
They would all be covering me
in a space cloak of humanity
on that dark suburban street.
There was a bright comet I saw,
others were very small
and teased the corner of my eye,
and when I looked
they were already gone,
but I did catch that one;
a large radiant flare
streaking across the Milky Way,
and I’d like to think
it was the Universe waving.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Language is one of several vehicles for expressing beauty. Through language we can weave a story or poem that may be about trauma, illness or even death, but we can also show love, friendship and good will. And the way we show these things can be experienced as something beautiful. In my writings, I try to act as a filter for the depth of the human experience, and in that process hope to move the reader to a deeper connection with the world that surrounds them.
KAREN PETERSEN has traveled the world extensively, publishing short stories, flash, and poetry both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. In 2019, she was the first person in the history of the Pushcart Prize to receive five nominations in three categories: poetry, short story, and flash. In 2021 one of her poems was long-listed for the Bridport Prize. She has also been nominated for the Forward Prize and the Best of the Net. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. More information can be found at: https://karenpetersenwriter.com