Thursday, March 31, 2011

A new poem

URBAN SNOW (March, 2011) We hike in snow Complaining of ice Through a park whose usual gate Is closed Across an empty golf course A still in and black and white, Evergreens black brush strokes Black against the white of snow Then At the edge of the greenbelt Darkness forms four legs, Then another Holding still; Coyotes! Hands screaming with cold We fumble with cameras, Knowing they’d flee Yet the young female ventures close enough To see the banked fire In her amber eyes, The detailed grain of her coat In shades of lichen and fallen Leaves. We gaze at each other In silence, Our breath a fragile bridge across the divide Between us Though she is watchful she is Almost indifferent to our bundled shapes, our dangling cameras, Our boots worn from other trails It is our turn to be old, To rest in this moment As if it were a dream we couldn’t quite remember Though I can almost feel the cold thrust of her nose in my hand The musky thicket at dusk The bones of feral cats Ringing like bells in her blood The wild thickets of hunger and Lusts are not strange to me, Nor the call for a mate That never answered. Karen Sykes

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poem for the Dead

This is a new poem about an old theme - loss of a loved one. I've been trying to write this poem for about five years to no avail.

Then tonight, it came to me almost word for word from wherever the words come from.

I thank the Muse.



You did not know we were there

In our suits and high heels

Gathering like crows

At dawn

Enclosed in a casket

Your eyes closed against the light

You’d have hated that

After all you lived your whole life

With open eyes,

Balls to the wall

Triple-A personality with

The heart of a thistle

Yet enough fire

To kindle

Hearts into conflagration

And kindness enough

To rescue a kitten

From a tree too high to climb

No tree too high for you

You swung from broken branches

As light as a wren

With chainsaw roaring

As if to bring a city to its knees

Or the women

Who loved you too long

And there were always


Now the sons and daughters


A freckled daughter-in-law with tear-splashed


Already a mother

And another on the way

A son who loved you so hard

It turned to hate

Two ex-wives

And a lover


Now you will be alone

For the first time ever

Under the earth you loved so much

You wore it

Now there is nothing to do

But throw red roses

At your casket

As if they were words.

Karen Sykes (aka Karen Waring)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Steamboat Rock (for JC)

A day off from hiking/writing has given me some space to work on some poetry - here's one that I've been tinkering with today with Veronica in mind ...STEAMBOAT ROCK (for JC)

Some of us cling
To life like lichen
On rock

Others barely hold,
Like moss loosely anchored
To stone,
A breeze could take you down.

You were still there,
A warm shadow
On the rock

You were always first
To get to camp
Or reach a summit
You never needed to wait
Because it all came to you

No one else knew
The roads you took
To this place
Broken by glaciers
And shaken by ice

Now you can rest
And let the eagles take
You the rest of the way

By Karen Sykes

Three poems


The doors open
Women are counting mirrors
And filing them away.

Above them
Are paintings of cities
No one has ever been to.

People stand in line
Waiting to cash their checks.
Eventually the checks
Turn into leaves
And the people turn into trees.

Very late in the afternoon
The sun comes in
And covers them with wild birds.

Karen Waring


Nobody lived there.

Everythinig died except the books.

They rustled like candy wrappers

In a dark movie.

The movie went on and on

And still the books



With their mouths open.

Karen Waring


“Hard it is on earth ….

Ax-time, sword-time …

Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls

Nor ever shall men each other spare ….”

Hard it is in our houses
Strange cars
Circle at dark

Hard it is in our houses
With our dreams and pills,
Phones that never stop ringing,
Digital devices tether us
To the housewives of
No place
457 things you can do
To prevent cancer

Strange hunters gather in taverns;
Bird-shaped men sit at the bar,
Their eyes do not blink.

Paintings and lost alphabets
Hang on ruined walls,
The bones of a dead child
Propped between dead continents
Paces in our dreams
This restless age.

(Do you remember the cold nights,
The sullen fires,
The ice that followed?
Do you remember the frosty paws of lions
Crossing Africa when pain was young?)

Hard it is on earth,
Hard it is in our lives
On long nights
When cars circle our houses

And the stars
Scratch in the dark
Like paws

Karen Waring

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Snow Geese in April (for Jane)

Finally, this aging poet has written a new poem.

Here it is,

Snow Geese in April (for Jane)

Snow geese

Like flying ribbons

Of confetti

Cross the sky

Then settle as silently

As snow

On muddy fields

Bursting with seed

Mount Baker

Rises above a crazy quilt

Of tulips

Like a porcelain plate

Propped against

A dark mantle of ridges

We have come late

To the garden

Full of girlish chatter

Belying our age

Speaking of journeys

And mountains to climb,

Whether the traveler

Crosses continents

Or ponders

The silent galaxy

Of spiders hatching

Under an eave

Karen Sykes (Waring)
Roozengaarde, April 16, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Poem for HB

Poem for HB

Bad heart, bad legs, bad weather
Did not keep you off the mountain

You said no matter what mountain
You are on
You can always see the next one

A lifetime of mountains is not enough,
One more summit, one more handhold,
One more sunrise smeared across the windshield
On a slow winter morning,
Almost wrecking the car
Because you saw another mountain
You had not climbed

You fooled them, bushwhacked
The wilderness of
Fading arteries,

To climb another mountain
Before the heart stutters,
The boots fray and the mind finally forgets that
Which you swore should never be forgotten:

One ancient stump with springboard notches,
One old snag leaning against
The cold silk of a winter sky

You stopped and wondered: what happened
To those loggers? Where did they go?

You know what happened to the loggers.
You know what happened to the trees.
And you know what will happen to us.

I look at the photograph
Of the first mountain you climbed
After surgery, your tracks in the snow
Heading to the summit like a grin and I ask:
Who will come after you?
Who will remember the loggers
That hauled their heavy gear up impossible mountains?
Who will remember the fresh green stink
Of fallen cedar and the hot white hands of booze?
Who will remember the smoky rooms
And the women who smelled like blackberries?

You know that the men who are afraid
To live, live anyway.
You will not
Wait for the lights in the mind
To go out, one by one

You will not drift down the
Slow river
Of nursing homes, clutching oxygen tubes and
Climbing to some awful summit.

When you fall, you will fall
With a piece of the mountain
Under your fingernails

So you might as well tussle
For one more kiss, or work out
A system for the lottery
You might as well
Walk out of the house
And climb into your car,

You might as well drive to the mountains
Get out of the car and leave the headlights on
And start walking,
You might as well take the trail the loggers
Took those cool blue mornings before
The sun came up,

You might as well reach out
And touch the fog and feel the sleek hours
Of the morning rubbing against you
Like a lover as you head toward some
Summit you have never seen.

Karen Sykes (Waring)



There is no way to kill them,
Devils guts, they are called

It is little consolation
That dinosaurs brushed by them
In ancient starlight

Nothing halts their advance;
Not even poison

At night I hear them
Breathing under the house
At dawn the spiders come
Sewing the weeds together
With dew

Yet I cannot help but envy
Their fierce determination to live
Even when not wanted,
Not like us
That can sicken from love

They will survive us all
After cities fall
And the sun has spoken

They will survive
In feeble light or
Broken asphalt or
Beside silver streams

No use to say
This is not the garden I wanted:
That I wanted poppies to
Dance in the yard like gypsies
Or that I wanted to run to you
Like I did that cold day in the cold mountains
When you wrapped me in your wool
Shirt and said “forever”.

Karen Sykes-Waring