Karen Poppy- New Poetry

Hello, Goliath

I will write you
As I know you.
Finally, I’m not afraid.

Sharp light of your being,
Come toward me.
You can dance, laughing.
You can tell lies.
You can say anything.

You can make others
Hate me. Giant you,
Little me. Yet, I
Have something hot
In my tiny hand.

A pebble. I place it
In my mouth. Sing out
This small, round rock.

My voice, a slingshot.

In Case of Emergency

The poetic voice has
Invisible instructions:
Crack open in case
Of emergency.
We avoid the shards, but
Some cuts are necessary.
For we work close
To the pain.
Closer than anybody.

I’m ashamed
Of my own miseries.
The shame of survival,
Of some death inside.

Still, my words flare,
Wet from my throat.

The Trail He Made In the Snow

The trail
He made
In the snow:
One long line
Of blood from
Drohobycz to
Russia.

Not those
Circular paths
He made
As a boy.
Clean and
White
Along with
Paw prints of
His dog,
By then,
Long dead.

His parents,
Young sisters,
Aunts, uncles,
Shot
Just before
He escaped.

In that forest,
Same spot
Below birch
Trees
He used to
Peel
Of their bark,
Of their skin.
Write love
Letters
On them
To an
Imaginary
Sweetheart,
Not knowing
Anyone real
To write to
In his small
World.

My grandmother,
Esther,
My father’s mother,
Said to me,
“He had such a chip
On his shoulder!”

It shocked me.
“Grandma,
His whole family
Died and he
Walked on bloody
Feet all the way
To Russia.
He was forced
Into the Russian
Army.”

“It was my family
Too,” she said.
“Grandma,
My grandma,
Murdered!”

She cried,
And I,
I felt shame,
Red stained
Like that
Blood
In the snow,
But deeper
Because
I had also
Seen his sisters.

Somehow,
My mind
Brought them
To me.
Somehow,
Their memory
Is seared
Into my
Genetic code:
Clean and
White
Nightgowns.
Fear.
Men with
Shadowed
Cheeks
and shadowed
Eyes.
Cheekbones
Like razors.
Fiery torches.
Violence,
Tearing.
Their mother,
Screaming.
Their father,
I don’t see him.

Pushed into
The forest.
My entire
Family there.
In the dark.
Except for
This cousin,
Who escaped,
Who etched
With his feet
Into snow
One long line
Of blood from
Drohobycz to
Russia.

Birch bark
Crumbles.

Snow melts
Away.

But all
That is
Written
Remains.

Concho

I.

His eyes, dark water
In which I’m never
Lost or drowned.

Limpid, clever.
He tells me to chill.
His mind melds to mine.

I braid his grey mane,
Tighten beauty
Against all threats.

Calm the stars
Of my fates.
But I can’t keep him

From his. Less than
A month. He’s kicked,
Dies, corpse dragged

Through the dirt.
My skinny one,
Culled by the herd.

II.

He loved maple leaves,
Sneaking a bite
On the trail.

I’ll never forget
His words as I rode—
Mind-to-mind:

“Chill baby, chill!”

Your Loss, My Imperfection

Someone else’s mother, not you.
She believed in her son, born
Perfect. Tiny cherub flown into
Midwife’s arms, silken skin sponged
Clean with impeccable newness.

All her sins completely expunged
By his beauty, the round wonder
Of his unfocused gaze, the smiles
That would come and become laughter.

You, you knew of my imperfection,
Even then. A startled, skinny soul.
A daughter. You had waited so long.
The wrong thing, an ugly foal.

You pretended at pink-tinged happiness.
Ashamed that you did not believe less
In what you missed, when everyone
Else proclaimed me perfect, beautiful.

Now I am everything and nothing.
Not boy or girl, man or woman.
Not someone with an invisible golden
Halo, reflecting perfection, beauty.

But that erasure of my gender
Does not bring back your innocence,
Or delete it. It just stands clear,
Another example of your loss,
My imperfection, come by honestly.

About the contributor

Karen Poppy's poems, “Austria by Train” and “Walt Whitman Celebrates Himself,” are included under Holocaust Poetry in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Library and Archives in Washington D.C. She has recently written her first novel, is at work on her second novel, and is an attorney licensed in California and Texas.

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