• Karen Heckman Stork

Taking a Breather

Quote of the Day: Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. Carl Sandburg

Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.

— Carl Sandburg

Taking a rest from writing this week. I’m turning to poetry for a moment in this hectic world. I love poetry — reading it and writing it. It calms me and makes me even more introspective. It feeds my soul and provides beauty in everyday life. I would not want to live in a world where poetry and poets were not admired and celebrated.

The above two definitions of poetry by Carl Sandburg are poetry themselves. The second very well could be a definition of my life. I hope you enjoy the following two poems about my daughter that are part of my book.


Remember the summer you were six years old

and you caught a caterpillar in a Mason jar,

you added a stick and some leaves to keep it alive

and you punched holes in the lid so it could breathe,

and then you sat and sat and watched it for hours?

Remember how surprised you were when the green

bumpy bug started spinning itself into a

mummy-like gray cocoon attached to that stick

and you asked how could it stay alive inside

and how could it eat, and you kept it by your bed at night?

Remember how an orange-black butterfly emerged

covered with drops of wetness and bits of gray cocoon

clinging to its body, struggling to open its wings

which seemed stuck together like thin strips of Velcro,

and you exclaimed, “It’s alive!”?

Remember how you opened the lid and the orange-black

Monarch flew up and landed on your left shoulder

and we could hardly see it because it matched your orange blouse,

and how still you stood as it explored your shoulder and

finally opened its wings like a prisoner flexing new-found freedom?

Remember how you christened him “Spike” and we all watched

him take off from your shoulder, and we chased him across

the field next to our house, and how he got smaller and smaller,

and finally was only an orange-black speck in the sky?

There’s a mountain in Mexico where these

orange-black former prisoners gather in huge numbers.

I hope Spike found his way home. . . .


I tiptoe into your bedroom, sit down cross-legged

on the floor and watch you sleep

because you’re growing up and I’m not ready to let go.

Your long dark hair unfolds behind your head

like a casually discarded Oriental fan.

Your right arm curls around a faded pink teddy bear,

clinging to something you still understand.

Moaning softly in sleep, you turn and give

the teddy bear a hug as if to say

you’re not quite ready to let go.

Just yesterday you asked me how to tell when you’re in love —

as you search the eager faces of every boy who

shows an interest, not sure of what you’re looking for.

Fumbling for the words, I turned away.

It’s important that you understand and I may

never get another chance.

How do you explain that you can give your heart

without losing your self,

That the seed of love begins with friendship

and blossoms into a union of hearts, minds and souls,

That love means acceptance — but not surrender.

I think of all this as I watch you sleep

and know that it will happen much too soon.

Someday you’ll put away your teddy bear

to sleep in the arms of a stranger.

And then I’ll say good bye and let you go.

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