“Outside the Bedroom” by Sean Karns

Outside the Bedroom


You slouch in the car seat

and mumble ich will nicht ausserhalb vom Schlafzimmer.

I believe it’s about the long red light

blocks from your husband’s home.

There is a pressure outside

the bedroom as potential witnesses

bike the crosswalk.

You cover your eyes

like your three-year-old daughter

scared of seeing something awful.


I stand on the balcony

as you pedal away.

I want to pedal next to you

and do ordinary things—

casual walks, Café Apropos

and the Columbus museum.

But you pedal faster.

When you’re gone,

I find weeks of your hair.


We can go onto the balcony.

It’s getting cooler.  I want to show you

the large oak tree.  It will hide us.

I have bread we can roll

into pebbles and toss onto the yard

to occupy the robins.

The neighbors are at work.

We have this place to ourselves.


Getting used to using each other—

I watch you put your clothes

back on and leave.

In the morning,

there’s a pleasure

smell of you,

two sets of earrings

on the nightstand,

artifacts under dust.

Sean Karns is a poet living in Illinois. His work has appeared in various national literary journals. The above poem originally appeared in Folio and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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2 Responses to “Outside the Bedroom” by Sean Karns

  1. Deborah says:

    This is perfect:
    “When you’re gone,
    I find weeks of your hair.”
    Thanks for posting this. I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to so many different authors and poets from this site. Waking up, the sand has been rubbed from my hibernating poetry eyes.

  2. Sivan says:

    I concur with Deborah. The image of finding weeks of hair is great. I found this piece a bit disorienting in time, narrative, and gender, and I enjoyed the feeling.

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