Archive for December, 2019

The Chapbook created for a poetry class

The Joy in Words
Karen Cox

Dedication: To the folks I write with who challenged this novelist to write poetry, to all of my students, and to Chuck, of course!

I. The Outdoors
Autumn Approaches 3
Summer Breeze 4
Suburban Day 5
Lakeside 6
Summer Morning Calling 7

II. Traveling the Road
No Tears 8
Leaving is Never Easy 9
Follow the Path 10
Turning a New Leaf 11
Highland Joy 12

III. A Look at the World
Complaint #1 13
Opposites 14
If 15
Reflecting 16
Bravery 17

IV. On Writing
The Bard’s Muse 18
Challenged to Tell a Story 19
How to Write 20
How to Write a Poem 21
The Archaeological Dig of Poetry 22

I. The Outdoors

Autumn Approaches

Orange and brown and gold and red,
Crisp and cold and sharp.
The stars shine bright in a clear night sky.
Painting the fall is Nature’s high art.
Squirrels quibble loud, tucking nuts away
Coats grown long, tails wrapped like scarves
The birds prepare, arranging flight plans
Wriggling snakes burrow, losing their tan.
Flowers fade gently, preparing for death.
The wind ruffles brown grasses that wave and sigh.
Trees lower their branches, lay down to rest.
The smell of frost hangs faint on the air.
A last walnut gathered into the nest.
One more tasty cricket before taking wing.
Slowly changing from heat to cool
As captive children head off to school.
To the circling Earth, this return is expected.
In all living beings, fall’s change is reflected.

Summer Breeze

The wind
Lifted the green leaves
Waving to their fellow plants.
It sent the maple branches
Dancing, twigs entwined.
It carried the scents
The perfumes of Nature
Warm, soft, sweet.
Black eyed Susans
Sway like a choir
In time to the wind’s song.
On the summer breeze.

Suburban Day

Roofers crawl atop
Peaks, hammering, mad woodpeckers shingle seeking.
The mail truck speeds by, cornering sharply, brakes squealing,
At each box, shoving letters inside, slamming metal doors, before roaring on.
Dogs bark incessantly
One yard over, behind rail fencing,
At the cat, sitting without care, on green grass,
He yawns bored and stalks away, driving the dogs into howling frenzy.
Mom pushes baby
In a stroller, getting in steps,
Talking, cellphone to ear, as they lap the block.
He solemnly watches the houses pass, dropping his bottle secretly, wicked chortle erupting.
Retiree, trimmer wielding,
Edges the verge neatly around concrete.
Wonders why he left his job for this pastoral.
He sighs, checks the mailbox, heads inside, beer and baseball lie ahead.

Lake Side

The water ripples,
undulating, driven
by the warm wind.
Waves bouncing against the bank to
be sent back again,
return voyage to the far side.
The blue reflects the sky.
White billow clouds, mirrored like
Water sheep grazing on the algae green.
And I, their shepherd,
lie on the shore,
tending my flock,
a wisp of timothy hay
between my teeth.

Summer Morning Calling A Sonnet for Tracy

The summer sun rises, calling to me.
I wait, looking east and ponder my way.
Tall hills, blue lakes, and sand beaches to see.
Lifting book and bag, Winds, guide where you may.

Dew drops shine like bright gems in the tall grass.
Sun beams turn the mist into golden dust.
Toward the tree line, I set out at last.
Far places hold secrets and magic, I trust!

Down well marked trail, then to the left or right?
Walk off the path, stride into the unknown
Or go straight on, into strengthening light?
So why should I set off, leaving my home?

I follow my muse wherever she leads,
Find stolen gold! Perform heroic deeds!

II. Traveling the Road

No Tears

Don’t cry for parting.
For, once joined,
Are we ever separated?
Raise up a cheer
For the adventures we shared
With strength facing dangers for reward.
Raise up a song
For the melody of our voices,
A lilting harmony of diverse feelings and thoughts.
Raise up a shout, loud and proud!
For ideas that were given form,
Accepted, agreed with or not.
Raise up a whisper
Of prayer to Whomever
Of thanks and honor and grace.
I will carry your words
In my heart forever.
So don’t cry for parting
This day.

Leaving is Never Easy

My back to all I hold dear,
Facing the onward road,
In coming, I saw the whole,
beloved vista before me,
But in parting,
Only the corner of one eye
Catches the familiar,
The tranquil,
The peace.

Vast unknown fills my vision.
Roads branch off
Through green fields
Leading to unfamiliar places
And strangers.
As thoughts of comfortable surroundings
And folk so familiar they could be me
Fill my mind.

My pace increases.
Down, down the hill.
Then across the water.
Up, climbing around curves
Where the future
Perhaps fraught with danger
Cannot be seen.

As daylight lengthens,
I arrive at home that is
But somehow isn’t.
And settled by my own hearth,
I raise my glass
To that place
To my friends–
Safe travels all!
Until we meet again.
When arriving is so joy-filled

Follow the Path

Trail, footpath, track, road
Leading off into the unknown
Distant lands.
Guided by instinct and
Footprints of those who went before.
Wind in the leaves calling,
Birdsong alluring,
A map to guide
Found under a flower
Drawn by a faery.
By water, uphill, along the ridge.
Down, down, down into the valley.
Ready for
Wherever it leads.

Turning a New Leaf

Does the old escape into
the new?
Jumps free of entanglements,
Runs screaming into the
Fresh air?
Sheds its colorless old fur
And sprouts bright plumage,
Pretending to be something
Mostly, the old oozes into the
unaware new,
Tainting it with memories,
Muddying the clear thoughts,
Layering staleness over the freshness.
But, sometimes, just sometimes,
It shares experience,
Warning against pitfalls,
Supports and encourages
So a new adventure can begin.

Highland Joy

Come dance with me on the windblown grass,
And through the green labyrinth run free.
Spin under sun-washed leaves,
Hug the soft moss,
Woodland lichen caressing the trees.
Sit on the high meadow,
A true retreat.
Content, for as far as you can see.
An offering given,
As we head back home,
Pausing to touch the ancient thorn tree.

III. A Look at the World

Complaint #1

Why be so
Sunshine bright behind the eyelids
To you is a portent of heatstroke.
Rainbow flowers nodding on the breeze
To you is a mess to be raked or sneezed.
Birds sing boldly while feeding their chicks
To you is a sidewalk splattered and slick.
Sun! Flowers! Birds!
You are alive! Thank the Powers!
Take a deep breath.
Become aware.
Count yourself fortunate.
Smile so your heart is warmed.
Dance to music only you can hear.
Sing aloud; spread joy!

So you will be remembered


Can be close or far apart.
Definite or vague.
Close-minded or open to all ideas.

It can be a state of mind
Instead of physical being.
Like young or old,
Mean or kind,
Bright or dull.
Your world is wide and round, not narrow as a street,
Holds room for
Both light and dark,
Hot and cold,
Cloudy and bright,
Day and night!
So be brave, not cowardly.
Free your imprisoned thoughts
And eschewing timidity,
Go boldly!
Released from all impediment.


We were simply kinder
To all
Those we like and
Those we don’t know,
It would be a better place.
We valued honesty
And open mindedness
Instead of deceit
And judgement,
It would be a better place.


A smiling face
Reflected on the wall.
You see your true self
Reflected in those eyes.
Fair or foul?
A whole picture.
Then tragically broken
Seven years of regret now.
Dropped carelessly or maybe thrown in rage
At glimpsing the truth.
Shards reflecting
Like drops of water
Seeing yourself in it
And maybe more.
Revealing what is truly there.
Is it bad luck
To be so fragmented?
Or was it worse luck
To be seen whole as you are?
Is it better to be ignorant or fully aware?
When reflecting, when glancing back
Is reviewing the past productive?
Broken bits scattered about
Revealing pieces of you,
Pieces of your soul.


What defines bravery?
Sucking it up
Bracing yourself
Deep breath before the plunge
Say a chant or whisper a prayer?
What form does courage take?
A defender of the weak touches the stars
A minuteman farmer faces a British regular
A victim confronts her attacker in court
A little child opens his closet door.
Are there no options?
Standing to face the sharp-toothed monster
Facing the unknown, staring it down
Flashing lights warn so forewarned ever on guard
Taking a stiff drink of whisky as fortitude.
And the symbols we know?
A medal holds it spirit
A phoenix knows the flame but is willing to fly
A flag unfurled to a rousing cheer
A glass lifted in honor of those gone before.
The epitome of courage.

IV. On Writing

The Bard’s Muse

A mask
Disguised as a wall plaque
Studying those who walk by
Sifting out ideas to write
Phrases, metaphor, and rhyme.

The face behind the words
Downcast hooded eyes,
Hiding her soul,
Shading the questioning stare.
Lips pursed as if preventing a smile
Or a saucy retort
At the absurd.
The hint of a horn,
Portent of devils
Contained inside.

A feather pen, well-used
A nod to ancient bards
Who wrote in lyric lines.
Quill of gold, the color of sunlight
Or the coin all writers hope to make.

The thoughts!
The words
That flow down the shaft
And spill across the page!
All thanks to the Muse
Inhabiting that pen
Hanging on the wall,
Watching all go by.

Challenged to Tell a Story

Night! As if
awakened from a dream,
Perhaps heard a cry. I looked out
on the lawn. The moonlight shone.
Something sang out in that night.
None would suspect the purpose was protection.
Those voices, absolute and impressive,
First all, then many,
Then one and then another.
Singing to bring all
safely home. Guardians of
The magic of the night.
I waved a salute
to their invisible presence
And went back to sleep.

How To Write

Pressure is not always embraced,
But in writing, it is a catalyst.
Sometimes a guide is necessity.
A list to follow
For cajoling words to flow
From mind to page.
First, select a spot
Comfortable, but not too.
Temperate, quiet but not silent.
Somehow awareness of the living world helps.
Perhaps ’tis the idea of audience!
Tools? Tools! Ah, the workman’s blades!
Pen and paper, tablet, binder, book,
Keyboard, screen, and thoughts.
One must have those or all else
Is for naught!
And so to begin…
What conjures grace of words?
The soft blowing of the wind,
The glint of sunlight reflected,
A constructing bird
Laying foundation
For her summer home.
Like the writer
Laying foundation
For the work.

How To Write a Poem

To catch an idea,
You probably need
A butterfly net,
Sticky fly paper,
A baited mouse trap.
To collect words,
You contain them in
A suitcase stuffed,
A bucket slopping over,
A Webster’s crammed full.
To develop images,
You shut your eyes and visualize
A brush stroked painting,
A black and white Polaroid,
A child’s chalk stick figure.
To write lines,
You raise your pen
Scribble words,
Rhyme phrases,
Ignore complete sentences.
When it seems done,
You set aside the page,
Let it steep in darkness,
Ripen like a good cheese,
Age like fine wine.
Then you have a poem.

The Archaeological Dig of Poetry

Sifting down through the layers.
Words, just words, at first,
That fitted together become phrases
Welded in place like gold and
Lapis lazuli.
Forming lines that dance
And howl
Like Bastet caught in the rain.
Forming mind pictures
Hieroglyphs of metaphors
Forming rhymes
Chants that conjure the Old Gods.
Stanzas that must be unwrapped
That walk, arms outstretched
Into corners of memory.
Poems are tombs opened
To reveal their priceless secrets.
The shared treasure of language.

About the author
Karen has been writing since, as a three-year-old, she handed her grandmother a tablet page full of scribbles. When she asked what it was, Karen told her “I wrote a book.” Karen wrote stories through elementary school, in eighth grade her first novel, a fanfic about teenagers fighting in the Revolutionary War. She grew up in the coal fields and steel mills of eastern Ohio, out in the country where the night sky was filled with stars. Karen holds a B.S. and a M. Ed. in English Education from The Ohio State University. For thirty years, she was a National Board Certified English teacher, most of the time spent at Deer Park High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a graduate of Miami University’s Ohio Writing Project. She wrote with her students, and NANOWRIMO was her favorite season.
Karen retired and did consulting for four years. She joined Women Writing for (a) Change, a Cincinnati writing organization, and completed their feminist leadership academy, becoming a facilitator in their summer camps for teens. She lives at the Tabby Cat Reserve in West Chester, Ohio with Chuck and five feline muses.
Her works include a LOTRs fanfic novel called Paths of the King, Bite Me, a YA novel, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, the future adventures of Col. Gryphon Bailey in a world that due to science is “kinda bitey.” She is currently playing with ideas about the younger son of an Irish laird who helps Brian Boru clear the Vikings from Ireland called The Minstrel’s Sword, and River Ghost sparked by a local news report of a car found in the Ohio River which may (or may not?) have remains in it. Oh, and poetry! Karen has discovered through the encouragement of her writing community that she likes the challenge of writing poetry.

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