By Karen Paul Holmes:
DRAWN INTO CIRCLES
Last evening, I placed fresh towels on both dog beds
heard scratching and rearranging in the night.
This morning, each dog lay curled
into a circle of towel
like a bird’s nest.
How life loves
cups of tea
pizza, roses, embraces
wedding rings, cathedral domes, bells
with notes radiating like ripples from skipped stones
the egg, the womb, the opening, downy heads
suckling mouths, breasts, eyes filled
with delight for bubbles
and bouncing balls.
Why do we box ourselves into corners
put our babies into rectangular cribs
build square houses and boxy buildings
drive cars to perpendicular crossroads
stare at newspapers, monitors, dollars
go to our rest in hard-edged coffins
slowly lowered into matching graves?
It’s a comfort
to imagine our rounded bones
becoming round bits of the globe
our spirits rising to orbit among spiral galaxies
joining those who completed the circle before us.
TEACHING MOZART IN STONE MOUNTAIN PRISON
I didn’t know what crimes they committed,
didn’t want to: those 12 guys glaring at me,
wondering what I had in store.
No female had taught there before
so I wore a calf-length, shapeless dress;
no make up; tortoise shell glasses instead of contacts.
Twice a week, iron gates banged behind me,
paperwork shuffled, an armed guard took me down
a warren of halls. He stationed himself by my door.
I needn’t have worried–soon knew, just as told,
if one prisoner caused trouble, he’d be jumped
by the others grateful for the chance of a college degree.
This was music appreciation. None knew the classics,
but one had played William Tell Overture in band.
All began to embrace opera, symphony, sonata—
I think the music transported them, comforted
even as they struggled to study in noisy rows of bunks.
One evaluation stays with me 30 years later,
Thanks be to God for blessing us with Mrs. Holmes.
But I felt blessed early in the semester:
We arrived at Mozart Piano Concerto Number 21.
Their books covered just the first movement, yet
I left the record playing into the second, saying,
You’ve got to hear a bit of the andante.
Muted violins conjured the ethereal melody while
repeated notes in the violas mesmerized.
After the pianist took up the solo for several bars,
I reached out to lift the needle… Twelve students
—no longer thief, mugger, murderer—
sang out in unison, No, leave it on!
“Drawn into Circles” was first published in Poetry East and appears in the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” was first published in POEM. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.
Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), which tells a story of loss and healing “with grace, humor, self-awareness and without a dollop of self-pity,” according to Poet Thomas Lux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, POEM, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and the forthcoming anthology of Georgia poets from Negative Capability Press.
Editor’s Note: Today’s poems shed new light on existence, demanding that we reconsider our human condition. “Drawn into Circles” deftly considers both the concept of the ‘circle of life’ and the roundness of nature versus the right angles of the man-made world. “How life loves / a circle: / the sun… the egg, the womb, the opening.” So “[w]hy do we box ourselves into corners / put our babies into rectangular cribs / build square houses and boxy buildings”? “It’s a comfort / to imagine our rounded bones… joining those who completed the circle before us.” While “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” engrosses us in a moving narrative that forces us to forfeit our assumptions and accept the beauty of being human. Both poems demand a second read, and a third, and neither poem leaves us quite the same as we were before we encountered them.
Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Buy Untying the Knot from Amazon
simply communicated, inc.
Interview with Karen Holmes on NetWest Writers
Reality Show: Save This Marriage on SoundCloud