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Sample Poems by Karen Mandell

Just Like That

That evening I took a fifteen-minute shower.
When I came down into the kitchen,
I asked my son-in-law what happened
While I was gone. A lot, he said.
Another galaxy swam through the universe
And is trailing along next to us, just like that.
Course, it's affected our gravity and all of us
Will have a better sense of humor starting now.
Other things too just becoming evident.

I looked outside in the gloaming, my vocabulary
Changed for the better, and locked eyes
With a wild turkey perched in the tree behind the garage.
A grizzly stood on its hind legs to the west,
Beckoning me never worry I'm on your side
And a wolf raised a protective paw.
The moon dropped low and clucked to the turkey,
Who ran across the yard, showing off his fine legs.
Crimson clouds turned cartwheels in the yard.
Try a cartwheel, they whispered. It's not too late.
The grass stroked my ankles with small green hands
and tossed me in the air, where the cedars
Reached over and murmured courage, courage.

Blown Away

At the door, Hannah lowers her eyes and voice,
Tells me not to blow away in the wind.
She doesn't want her parents to hear
But they do and laugh and say it's impossible.
She's got a thing about the wind, they explain.
I go out and she watches, urgent, from the window.
It's not until I'm out of sight
That the wind takes me, wraps me
In his gale-force arms, jiggles and juggles
and tosses me down the block.
Finches and bluebirds, snuggled
In tree knots, shake their heads
And sing you're out of your element,
Chik chik bally bally hoo

I grab a sturdy cloud-shelf
And hang on, body swaying like a pendulum.
Tick tock, I'm going to drop.
But I don't. A nymph wrapped in cumulus
Holds me up. I open my mouth to thank her,
But a new blast shears my words.
She says she's Artemis and we spin down,
Doing the tango and two-step
as we go, warblers supplying the music.
Dandelion hillocks cushion our landing,
small plump pillows. Artemis blows me a kiss,
and the wind laughs at her small strong breeze.

In the News

They're bringing thousands of buffalo to South Dakota.
I read aloud from the paper as we shoot down I-90,
Boston to Rochester, to see our girl and the baby.
How it goes, isn't it. First, buffalo. Then no buffalo.
Now, stock buffalo like cans on a shelf.
Add to the pot that the landscape's changed:
wild grasses, coneflowers, yarrow
ripped out for tilled fields, fallow fields.
Unlikely they've thought this plan through.
Still, I'm lulled by the susurration of the wind in the prairie grass,
all gone to seed by early July. Though there's no fooling myself;
it's just the headwinds pushing against the car.
We make good time, hurtling past
the ghosts of old growth forests,
copper-leaved beeches pulled down for septic fields.
Somewhere else the mountains are cut down,
streams squeezed out and rolled up like laundry.
I'm glad when Fred says to find a station
so I'm at least doing something,
pressing buttons, seek and scan


I lay flat on my back, thinking of the muddled
Laundry in the dryer until our yogi
Instructed a cleansing breath, in through the nose,
A sharp exhale. I drew in chariots, their spiked
Wheels raking my throat, whole armies
With bristling swords and rusted bayonets,
The wounded, the dogs of war, the doomed children,
Their sandals, their boots, their shredded sneakers.
On my great exhale, those ploughs rolled out,
Motorized, the oxen and horses free to eat sweet grasses.
Children tumbled, eyeing bewildered
Their clothes, patched and clean, covering
Healed limbs. Triumph of the Innocents
Men and women held the elbows of those
Not so strong. Some birds had donated feathers
For straw hats, and I sneezed out a tumultuous riot
Of Bartlett pears, seed cakes, sweet wine,
Mandarin oranges, and jars of honey left over
From the Queen Bee's birthday party.
Well, not just hers-we were all born that day,
The lights overhead singing our marvelous song.

Turning the page

They're putting strange things
On the paper's second page.
Yesterday, someone found an emerald
Worthy of Catherine the Great
On a North Carolina farm.
In Romania, a dinosaur was shoveled
Out of his seventy million year
Hidey-hole. A sturdy clawed fellow,
Back when Romania was an island,
The world not having yet been settled into place.
Today, a woman was found stuck
In a chimney, feet first, at her boyfriend's house,
Raging mad, apparently, but the guy ran away.
In other news, a mayor's daughter shoplifted makeup.
Her father's mantra: Stop petty crime.
Sipping hot cocoa, smoothing almond butter
On a rye cracker, I try to categorize, make sense
Of it all. Animal and mineral, rage and want,
Stacked neatly in columns
Up and down the page.