Parting Gift

Editor’s note: On Sept. 11, 2010, long-time Mountain Gazette poetry editor Karen Chamberlain passed away. Her husband, photographer Bob Chamberlain, found the following two pieces on her computer in a folder titled, “Unfinished Poems.” A book of Karen’s poetry will be published by People’s Press in the spring.


Scissoring out of the newspaper
The obituary of a man I knew well
I’m stopped
By the adjacent obituary
Of a man I didn’t know at all
And the microsecond flash
Of how equal they’d become.

She Speaks To Her Bones

I know you, old bones, know
how you’d rather wander
at your own pace, evade
the tiresome curiosity I place
upon you, how you’d rather collapse
in a heap on these coral sands
I walk you over, or wobble off
alone toward the easy route,
the sky’s blue road.

I know you’re tired of lifting
the burdens I put in your arms,
the loads of sadness and anger
I’ve given you to hold, the bundles
of rocks I’ve thoughtlessly placed
on your back, the ways I’ve twisted
and cracked you, vertebrae, leg
bones, and you, arms, weaving
in dances, climbing rough hills,
turning, always turning to keep
us focused on desires you may
not have shared, on the strange
wild beauties surrounding us
on this long red path, this journey
from ancient sea
to withering desert.

O bones,

I know if I’d let you rest
more often along the way,
if I’d let you find your own loves,
pursue your own dreams
instead of hauling you along
searching after mine, I know
you’d be more loyal, you’d
not creak and pop and complain
the way you do. But not all

memories must lapse.
There were those days
when we ran so lightly
over the grass, down, down
over the sloping fields, leaping,
leaping through forests past
the envious rooted trees,
so fast we ran, faster
than anything, faster than
day’s impatient hours
faster than night’s
impassive stars, until
we ran right up into the sky,
breath reaching into you
breathing deep into you,
old bones,
with joy.

Karen Chamberlain was the author of “Desert of the Heart.” Her first published story, which appeared in MG #46, was titled “Climbing the Walls in Berkeley.” That story was included in the book, “When in Doubt Go Higher: The Mountain Gazette Anthology.”