A Necessary Roughness
Some argue a knife behind the head
straight through the spine is the most humane
but I learned the killing of fish
begins with a hard whack from the hammer
with the clean dispatch of a blunt tool
some call the priest
direct and firm to the skull
where there can be no irony
in the blessing of submission
just a necessary roughness
and tension as the shock stuns
a bloody bloom on the stilled canvas
as the knife slips in.
More Each Day
—For the lost of the Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghan war zones
Our house comes together more each day,
The new front porch, the curtains in the den,
The footpaths we wear in front of the stove
As we turn the last of the tomatoes into sauce.
We close the windows and let the heat come on.
Steam gilds the walls of the kitchen.
Outside, the dropping of the yellow leaves
From the ash trees beyond our windows
More each day, the breeze pulls them to wing,
The trees left bare and startled.
When we sleep, the endless falling leaves
Rain through our dreams.
In the mornings we rise to turn
The pages of the newspaper.
Each day the number of dead, maimed,
The legless and crazed grows more.
There is nothing that surprises us anymore.
The mine-yours-ours of our children
Come and go.
We let them and love them
More each day but sometimes
Emptiness crowds the hearts
We take such care to watch over now.
Closer, we hold ourselves to one another.
We hug awkwardly around our regrets.
Beyond the windows of our togetherness,
The ash leaves circle and flock.
There is nothing that can separate us
From our days of making peace with our past,
From our making love of our life
As if all the world depends on us.
Through all these days and more,
The ash leaves whisper and sigh.
They gather their ruin,
Their endless troubles,
Outside our door.
For all that happened without her
during the night,
the dog whines at the door.
In her dance, her acrobatic
shimmy of deer-colored wags,
she would topple a mountain
in her desire to chase the night away,
to plow through the glaze
of dew and the scented trails
of the night wanderers,
one happy nostril at a time.
Below the fog of dawn,
a dim light lingers in the field
the way a chastened child
peers round a door frame,
waiting for things to correct themselves.
The hour is nearly right.
The sparrows still twitter on
about its arrival.
Yet, the mist offers no break,
no reprieve from the waiting.
There is no spider’s web
caught off guard in a refraction
and there could be hours ahead
where minutes disappear
inside the cloak of gray.
In the path that leads to the wood,
a turkey hen contemplates her future.
The long grass around her aches
with an uneasy patience.
There will be a circle of matted blades,
a clutch of eggs, ten maybe twelve. Each one
she will take a day to give birth to.
Does she share her secrets then?
Is she tender and motherly,
whispering like a bedtime story
the tales of tricksters and coyotes,
does she tell of the haven in the trees?
Sometimes I am awakened
with the fear that I haven’t done
what I’m supposed to have done.
It makes me shudder and worry,
brings me to my feet to pace
the carpeted darkness
of my living room.
And yet, there is more to it than that.
I know how the longing
sweeps through even the morning,
how it must be followed,
the longing that causes
the heart to pause with wonder,
beautiful and frightened,
Karen Sharpe is a poet and writer from Sterling, Massachusetts.
She facilitates a Facebook poetry group with weekly poetry prompts called The Poetic Lens Poetry Project.
Karen’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in Silkworm, the Sprinkler Factory, Triple Moon Arts, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetpourri, The Comstock Review, the Ledge, the Worcester Review, Yankee Magazine and in her collection, This Late Afternoon.
Karen has facilitated many open mics at coffeehouses, bars and bookstores, welcoming poets to the musicians’ stage and encouraging the union of music and verse. She has organized writers’ conferences for adults throughout Worcester County and has mentored many young writers as part of the Worcester County Young Writers Conference. More recently she has worked with adults in workshops and retreats in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Karen was a journalist for many years, writing for Worcester Magazine and the Boston Globe, and later was the editor and associate publisher of the independent newspaper family of The Lancaster Times Inc. She was named Journalist of the Year by the New England Press Association.
Karen is the Executive Director of University Advancement at Worcester State University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Featured image by Erika Luckert.