The HyperTexts

Karen Kelsay

Karen Kelsay is an American poet. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the editor of Victorian Violet Press, an online poetry magazine that encourages formal poetry. Her poems have been featured at The New Formalist, and have recently been accepted for publication in The Raintown Review, The Flea, The Lyric, 14 by 14 and Lucid Rhythms. She lives in Orange County, California.

Moon over Half Dome

Before I packed my Limoges plates
and watercolors, to leave your Tudor house
on Washington Street, I wedged
my photo between pages
of an Ansel Adams book, so I could float
above Dunes Oceano in my sundress
and listen to you play Waylon Jennings
on Saturday mornings.
I wanted to pick poinsettias
that bloomed pale against
the door, watch November's chill
morph you into a gray leather chair
with your dalmatian curled
beneath the dark lacquered table.
I wanted the scent of your cigarette
and every wall of your black and white world
to leverage me along a quiet crease
where I could fold into a vacuum
vast as Yosemite, hang silently
as the moon over Half Dome,
and pretend I was still framed
on your mantle.

Winter Needlepoint

Here comes the cold time—holly, pine, and yew,
low grass-laced hills crisscross in winter white;
dark threads of cloud stretch sugar-plum and blue
along a canvas sky of fraying light.

The frost arranges crystals on a limb.
Flakes, falling, reappear as snow on snow
like French knots sewn above the tree root's rim,
that stencil little patterns, to and fro.

The frozen oak is filled with mistletoe,
its yellow berries unconcealed by leaf.
They offer fruit for robin, thrush, and crow.
It makes me think of emptiness and grief—

reminds me of a summer field of yarrow,
and everything that bloomed before the chill.
December brings a tapestry of sorrow,
with knots pulled through a surface of goodwill.

Autumn Ambivalence

We sit near the stream edge, under the pine's
brittle fingers. Our collective breath
drapes between low branches
like a foggy sheet across autumn's arms.
You spot a black bear in the distance;
I marvel how a sky so blue
can be so cold. Daylight has become
brief, the valley blurred into a ribbon
of frayed leaves. At dusk I see
Denali's shadow from my balcony,
moose eat fuchsias by the backyard deck.
Stalks of rhubarb bend
and twist to earth, breathing
a chilly sigh. No matter how many
winters I greet, this place
will always seem foreign to me.
Everything lies exposed, the beauty
is too vast. God is too near.


Alone on the playground's edge,
surrounded by a troupe of invisible ballerinas
who transform her frayed skirt into a flash of tulle

while others play foursquare and hopscotch
on the blacktop, she exercises her superpowers
by blocking out thoughts of her mother's demons.

At night she crawls into bed, waking up alone
in the house at midnight—but nothing frightens her.
A swift cat scratch across her cheek imparts

no sting, she can hold back a decade of tears
with a single squint. Neighborhood children
never hear the words

that wrestle within her head, and even adults
struggle to see evidence of the mother's love
her x-ray vision barely captures.


Perhaps it was the somber vines between
those leaves, or how a moon spilled lavender
through parted sheers, and blended shades of green
against my wall, that made me think of her.

Or maybe it was trusting mourning doves
who left their eggs behind when dawn imbued
a citrine sky. I know about her loves.
They echo in the beauty she pursued

like scents of hyacinth in June, or song
that fills a hillside church, and solemn prayer.
Each day I think: it seems so very long
since I have sensed her presence, anywhere.

Originally published by The New Formalist


Like trees that shade a path and intertwine
to form a summer arch that guards the walk,
where daffodils and buttercups recline
while leaning by the sycamore to talk.

Our days are linked with laughter, love and sorrow,
always embracing gently as they spread.
Small buds enhance the pathways of tomorrow,
by flourishing in shade from overhead.

When chilly winds come nearing from the east,
as summer turns away her golden face,
when greenery and blossoms all have ceased
our graceful winter boughs will interlace.

Originally published by The New Formalist

The Courtship Hour

I love the hour that hangs its weightless haze
of yawn across my bed. An ivory wrap
of humming stillness, spectral dance embossed
in thimble-light. I love the wentletrap

of thoughts and gurgled chants that twist before
white shoals of sleep. The bend and blur of night
with loveliness and brokenness inside
soft vagaries that pivot in the light.

I love the hour subservient to dreams,
when day's satiety leaves remnant sky.
And all beheaded moments shed their wings
into a hushed reluctance as they die.

Originally published by Wilderness Interface Zone


I heard you left your garden in Nauvoo
with tufts of flowers fringed in teacup blue

that hemmed wild hyssop you would always miss,
along with china painted with a Swiss

scene on each plate. You gave a hand-stitched quilt
away before the prairie chill could wilt

the daisies by your porch, and left the chair
your husband settled in each night, warm air

immersed in fireflies and prairie clover
all for the Utah valley—starting over.

I stack my books against the bedroom wall,
the Persian rug's half-covered by a shawl.

My favorite plates were given to a friend
along with mother's vases. I pretend

I'll never miss the walnut antique clock
or linen dress, my daughter's baby smock

and all the lemons offered by these trees.
In springtime branches swell like gentle seas

with blossoms tinted white as cliffs of Dover.
We'll find another place, my love—start over.

Eyeball Prayer

I thank the Lord for marvelous eyes that
transform small piles of books upon my bench
into a multicolored June bouquet
of blooms, and hide long smudges on the French

doors every time the kitten rubs her paw
against the pane. For eyes that never see
sleeves crawling from a laundry basket, or
detect the chips on a piano key.

I thank the Lord for eyes that are unlike
my husband's—always rolling in dismay
at beds unmade, and going crossed when large
spoons mix with small, inside the kitchen tray.

Dawn's Dobro

I found your melody inside the night;
it lulled me through the eye of winter's star;
I know, you always loved the steel guitar
and once again you played for me. Moonlight
had barely filtered through my willow tree
across the pond. A robin had begun
her early tune beneath the eave, and one
small cloud along the hill had wrestled free
to dissipate above the water's sheen,
like wayward thoughts that move without a helm
or sail, to float upon another realm.
Your quiet song still resonates between
the sky and earth, for me. It dwells upon
lamenting clouds, then slides into the dawn.

Originally published by Willow's Wept Review

The Language of Flowers

I never knew you held a rosary
of lilies in your heart, or meadows filled
with songbirds in your hand, that chirped and trilled
into the night. I could not sense the sea,
or brimming emerald pools that filled your days
and buoyed you up, when morning could not find
one star. Your quiet life is intertwined
with jasmine flowers, washed in amber haze
of dusk—and I now see your fortitude
in fullest bloom. It laces up the wall,
determined petals, glorious and small.
Their silent strength has oft been misconstrued.
While evening's muted colors touch your leaves,
I watch them wander upward, to the eaves.

Originally published by Willow's Wept Review

Among the Boughs

Tonight, a slow release of summer rain
sweeps through my pear tree. Gentle is the sound,
a metronomic lullaby that rolls
across each limb and patters on the ground.

Outside my room, traversing streamlets run
along the open pane—I try to count them all.
And leaves are soaked a darker green, while buds
appear to peek between the lattice wall.

The scent of blossoms filters through my screen.
I lie awake, yet, caught up in romance
among the boughs, where whispers hum to me,
and all my evening thoughts have learned to dance.

When Summer's Through

I cannot kick a mound of maple leaves
or see a pumpkin peeking from the vine
before the frost and not remember hills
where summer laid her green. A distant line

of poplars gleams like curtains made of coins;
it shakes at passing clouds. And everywhere
the magpie hops, I see another sign
of hawthorns beckoning the winter air

to breathe upon the fields. It once was mine,
that sweet transition only autumn knows,
the one that holds the oak limbs silently,
embracing every chilly breeze that blows.

It leads me into mottled shadows of
a deeper hue, where nothing seems so true
as winter's birth. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse
of it beneath the vines, when autumn's through.

Gone in Increments

September dawn has lit my lemon tree
and tinted fruit in mystic ruby shades.
Small clusters hang like silent bells against
the window pane. A citrus scent cascades

along each waxy leaf, then lifts to comb
worn eaves where last year's empty nests are wedged.
My cat is pacing underneath the sill;
moist lilies and geraniums have edged

against the mossy walk and wall. My sheers
are parted, and I watch one saffron beam
appear through thorny boughs. Now morning warms
the lawn in increments of light. Each seam

of day is filled with thoughts of you— aloof
in subtle turns and hues of cloud. Reserved
inside wrapped petals of a rose. Your hand
holds all elusive beauty I've observed.

Winter Widow

In Coeur d’Alene a red-hued sun has sketched
a portrait of the willows by the lake.
I watch her cut the last remaining rose
before the frost. Her hand picks up a rake

and lets it play one garden song, a dirge
of dying yellow. October glides away
like eagles on a cloudy afternoon
that dive into the chill of Mica Bay.

Her pears and apples have been gathered up
and brought into the kitchen. Soon the snow
will cover every pine. She folds her gloves,
remembering her daughters. Long ago

this farmhouse had a family. Now deer
become her children, blending in the mire
of tawny dreams and cherry blossom springs.
She shuts the door and huddles by the fire.

Originally published by The New Formalist

The HyperTexts