Two Poems by Karen Paul Holmes

At Least Two People I know Take Photos of Hearts in Nature

Morning glory leaves, rocks, clouds,
a horse’s fur, an upturned pear
that grew oddly so.
Or manmade by chance—
oil swirls on pavement,
an accidental heart in marbled rye.
These shapes—symbols
for the human heart,
its beats and chambers linked
with love since Sappho’s mad heart
quaked with it, and Venus
gave Cupid his bow.

The seekers aren’t looking for
a weeping Mary or Jesus
for thousands to bow down before,
just reminders to be mindful,
like when my Buddhist chime
sprinkles the quiet with silver.
Once I look, I begin to see.
Valentines in the unexpected universe,
small doses of hope.
A broken cockle shell tangled in kelp,
the grain of a cedar bench,
pollen on a still pond.


Adult Daughters

A friend tells me about her flight last week:
She watched a grown daughter fall asleep—
head on her mother’s shoulder,
mother’s cheek on her head—like puzzle pieces.

As if grabbing my lapel, she implores,
How does this closeness happen?
My daughter and I have PhDs, but we don’t have this,
nor did my mother and I.

I want to mark a route and hand her the map.
But it’s a map—instinct I can’t explain—
mothers pass on to daughters. Blue lines, sinew, heart.
I begin to write. Stories I can’t share with my friend.

My 75-year-old mother and I carry armloads
into the Macy’s dressing room.
She wears new black pants—lint-covered hem to knee.
Eyeing the mirror, says
Gee, I thought I bought pants not a vacuum cleaner.
We laugh and can’t stop, tears dripping.
We retell the story often among sisters and daughters.

Singapore: My daughter and I lie on her bed.
I arrived last night, a 33-hour flight. Eyes barely open,
we enjoy the myna bird’s many songs before city noise thrums.
Something reminds us of the vacuum cleaner pants,
and we laugh. She rolls over, hugs me
I’m glad you’re here, Momma.
Let’s have tea. I bought you gluten-free muffins
and a mango that just now gives to the touch.


Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry books, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, and Verse Daily. Journal publications include Plume (forthcoming), Diode, Glass, and Prairie Schooner. She founded the Side Door Poets in Atlanta and a monthly open mic in the North Georgia mountains.

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