Free-Verse Poems

A lot of my poetry is done in free verse, so this has the potential to be the largest section by quite a bit. Some of these, which I haven't figured out how to mark yet, are examples of something I call structured free verse. That isn't intended to be an oxymoron, but an application of the form (or lack thereof). These pieces have some kind of structure, usually relating to syllables or rhythm, and sometimes interwoven rhyme. The 9-line poem is one of my better represented examples of this; as you can see from the link, those pieces have their own page. The links in the list below will . . . . well, you know the drill.

Awake
Betrayed
Connotation
Diversity
DV
Feelings, Now:
Fourth of July
Hopeless
Hourglass
The Hypothetical Baby
JB
Kamerof
The Limit of the Universe
Mirror, Mirror
My Answer
One to Tango
Playing With Fire
Ponder
Religion
Rhetorically Wondering
The Rose
Rose-Colored Glasses
Saying Grace
Second
Unload
Washed Away
What I Am
Where I Stand



Awake

My last night as a full-time child
I didn't want to sleep, for fear of
Waking up in a rustle of too-crisp sheets
And a creak of inadequate bedsprings
With a lightly snoring virtual stranger eight feet away.
And also I didn't want it to be tomorrow,
Because then it would be time to do what
I've denied for three weeks of subsistence
And oblivion--ignoring is bliss.
And I saw everything I never did
Lying around me, pieces and steps of the
Success I never got, reminders that
Whatever I planned, I never got far.
But in the middle of these broken promises
To myself, I could see for the first time
That I have not been broken.
And I must keep myself, all that is real,
As daybreak does, and nightfall.
I exist to others, but all I need is me.
I will be the last promise, when all is said
And kept.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Betrayed

Spoken--a word implicit.
A concept--broken.
Trust--
A token, dropped
In the machine--
Time's up.
I have proven over
And again, I am
Tougher than I seem--
A fool still, hopeful.
And you never say
You grant me equal credibility
Or similar delusions.
To believe everything
You say--how can
I give you what I am not given?
But I do--
I would, and I will.
And I let you
Keep pieces of me
Locked, keyed to you
Secretly--only I
Can no longer
Be sure of finding them--
You will tell me,
I or you
Right or wrong.
And this new
Revisionist me
Wants only to be right
And for you to know.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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Connotation

Friends
Means sharing, bittersweet
A brand name of love. It is a tie for all time,
Longer than the shadows we forget
Yet shorter and better than life, or for some longer,
Stronger. It balances you, with a pole in
One hand and a rope in the other, you choose what to use it for.
It is forever.

Friends
Remembers everything anyone ever felt,
Holds it in a cubbyhole somewhere for next time
When it is spoken or thought, from kindergarten
Elation to maturing despair. No friend is ever
Alone in action or reaction, left
Without a silent commiserating presence of
Invisible brick, a personal wailing wall
For those who need its strength
And stability.

Friends
Is a loaded word and pointed. It limbos out from
Under walls, vaults barricades, threads mazes
To erect cellophane boundaries of its own.
It lets you see what could lie beyond
But that you gave up
When you spoke its name.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Diversity

I did not think when I named my people
Eurocentric that I would ever have to
Rack my brains for just the right touch of
Foreign syllable to represent a nation
That has given me a friend I wish to honor
Without insult.
And when I used to roam the open-air mall
In search of shoes, I never imagined
That one day I would argue with my sister
Over wearing the plaid flannel that clothes
The leering young men whose compliments
We can't accept
As I feel the fluorescent lights slowly
Bleaching my skin even paler than
Its standout rosy tan among
An olive sea.
And when I felt obligated to copy my books and
Choose a crush I never paid attention to
Last names or skin tone because
A heart is the same in any language
And mine breaks when I realize
How hard it is to accept.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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DV

The world's most humble egotist
Spin it around but
Nothing is true or can be, so
We're all wrong but you're not.
Is it false that nothing is true
Or can you be the only one blind enough
To see the unreality of the real?
All your isms, you'll never be quite wrong
But if nothing is true
Neither are you.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Feelings, Now:

Some kind of attraction that is neither
Animal, vegetable, nor mineral, a power not
Solar, fusion, or magnetic
And it is all in my head that
I could see into his
And find myself sitting there.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Fourth of July

Strobe daylight dawns in the northeast
Piercing the haze over the patriotic
Americans standing in the driveway with
Eyes glued on the glittering
Chemical starbursts glowing in the night sky.
All around are the whistles and
Flashes of the little cones and boxes
From their larger cones and boxes
Giving their all at the flame's command.
A spark of a thought lights my mind,
A thought that the high-soaring bursts of light
Look so much like the sputter-sparking trails
Of the weapons we hate--
Yet though both are so harmful
We embrace one and condemn the other.
And I wonder in a question half-risen:
If strangers were to see the lights from
Over the country, what would they see,
Celebration or war?
Fitting, perhaps, for a celebration of a war we won
That it should look like exploding bombs
Sound like machine guns
And come in cute little missile-shaped packages.

See the pretty sparkler
Come buy a box of chaos
Delight the kids

Copyright 1995 by Katherine Foreman.

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Hopeless

However you look at it I can't
Deny myself the torture
And run the risk that maybe
This is the time it won't hurt.
With the door closed or open I
Can still hear the laughter,
Catch the voice
I'd give anything to hear
In my ear--
Whetstones, whether to cut
Rope or flesh the knife and I
Cannot decide.
And I close my eyes like a melodramatist
Hoping someone pulls the curtain
And bang my head against the wall.
It will not go away.
And he will not leave unless
I want him to stay.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Hourglass

The ocean is a blue cliché,
The pink sunset a rough-edged neon light through the smog.
Sand and seaweed scuff my toes in the tender spots,
Pillow the tough heels of my wave-buried feet and
Slowly cover my ankles.
There is sand everywhere,
On my face and hands,
Carried by the waves onto my clothes,
Even in the air as it is flung back,
Back into the sea that will toss and churn it
And round the sharper grains
So that some child's small pink feet
Will one day feel them,
Soft under the soft-skinned toes
Of one not even thought of yet
On our sand grain of a world.

Copyright 1994 by Katherine Foreman.

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The Hypothetical Baby

While it sleeps, there is peace,
In my heart and head.
What if it should wake up in the night,
Steal my sense with its longing,
Make itself present with a tiny bit of desire?
Who will comfort it then,
Stop the wailing of a soul unfulfilled,
Keep it from feeling unloved, alone?
Better to ignore it, let it learn
There is not always room in the big bed.
It will stop crying in a while.
It always does.

Copyright 2000 by Katherine Foreman.

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JB

The face of an avenging angel backlit by the sun,
High above with a halo falling in his face
And speaking into gravity as I have been fighting it
All afternoon. Just before sunset the sky is still blue,
Still picking out clouds in glitter white without gilt
Edges, and in the face of this I must decide. There
May be future in the blue gaze, the sun-fired circlet
That sets him apart from the sky, whatever permanence
I read in tone and voice. I may reach for the
Brilliance of a daystar that burns my hand to be free,
Even with whatever rightness I felt at him leaning
Over me--I could close the distance.
I will see him in a cloud someday, next to a bunny rabbit.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Kamerof

I want to wrap myself in Christmas lights and
Be a tree for Halloween
In December.
I want to run until
I reach the horizon
And go past it into night on
The other side of the world.
I feel like I can't
Take much more of this
Before joy becomes a supernova.
I feel like the flower around my neck
Is real, with me at the center.
And I want forever to go by
In five minutes, so I know how I spent it
And know it was fun.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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The Limit of the Universe

We are closest when we are apart.
Each takes tiny steps back when
We are finally together again,
Forced away by the
Thoughts of closeness risen from solitude.
Lonely alone
Lonely together
This is not what I had in mind.
Where fear is the driving force
Fear must be of each other too,
A wedge forever standing
Until we need not be afraid
Which in this stifling, frowning
Disallowing world
Must never happen.

Copyright 1995 by Katherine Foreman.

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Mirror, Mirror

My game face is blue.
I must put it back on, see
How much of my glory was real
And how much fever.
I see drawn eyes, too much marring,
A suit of swan feathers
Without the matching shape.
And however I imagine lights,
No straw spins to gold.
I see as I have been seen,
Not radiant, but ashine in hope
Yet to see a finish.

Copyright 1998 by Katherine Foreman.

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My Answer

They ask me what you are to me and I cannot say,
Because of all they will read in the air. And they
Ask me what I think but when I think of you
I go blank and sink into images tangible with feeling.

What you are to me is real, whole and not fragile,
Not made of glass nor yet sent to reach me out. And then
What you are becomes a pure being, a melting spirit of
Memory and music, perfection and star brightness in human form.

What you are is wish and answer, a hope that is alive and
Beautifully terrible, vivid cool fire with an angel's face.
What you are is a walking surprise of reaching smiles,
A collection of essence, a heart with the power to touch and to move.

And I would wish to be as bright, as true as I feel
You to be, as substantial as the hand that held mine.
And I would wish to be beside you as a living shadow,
Always and never there, and felt somehow forever.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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One to Tango

I won't ask you why you're running and
I won't ask you if you care
But the subject's going to come up
Sooner or later, and it might as well be
Now that I'm thinking about it.
And it's okay if you test me, without
Having to test my limits, but
I've never liked pop quizzes and
It seems a little unfair.
And I don't want to dance if
You can't make me pretend that
You love me, and you can't.
So it's a weekend for nothing
And here I am with my whole soul
Bared to you, about you and
I feel more naked than over spaghetti.
But I'll keep it quiet for your sake
And couch my words in negations
Of where they come from, and I would
Deny my soul to tell the truth to you forever.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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Playing With Fire

For some it must be nature
But mine is content to receive and return
And to follow, if it can be led.
I felt that Person stirring among her petals,
And in a lightning strike I thought again of
Printing her out, for you.
But what can I show that some
Depth of your connected self has not seen?
Wouldn't it be just like you to know
Every piece of me by mind
Before heart, before touch?
I know somewhere that any so-called
Surprise would give both of us deja vu.
But when our hands together touching
Cupped the tiny candle flame
Something more was warm than my fingers,
Something felt deeper than just the heat
And I wasn't afraid of getting burned.
And I finally saw the ember, cinderless,
In the middle of the splinters
You held, glowing in the dark air
As you tried to keep it alive, and
I thought I might be able to keep it with you
But the answers disappear in your breath
And someone's lighting up my favorite stars.....

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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Ponder

I grew up with it, but it's not
Wrong or rejectable for that.
Whoever had the shirt saying how little I hold
Cannot make me over into what I already am,
Still cannot set me against it.
They and I may stand forever
Regardless of how much I inch toward them,
Without a thought for the answers I always find,
The bridges I know I need to build.
I remember the way the words felt when I first
Gathered the courage to recite them,
The way my heart felt when I knew what they meant.
I tremble now too, with their weight.
And I tremble again as the music
Dangles my faith over a fire and a flood--
It is not a thing you can ignore.
With racing pulse I try the words on my lips,
The melody in my throat.
It feels good. It feels right.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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Religion

I am more an ancient Grecian than a Christian
As they say it, in accents of exclusion and
Brimstone. What kind of fool do I take myself for,
Forcing first one side and then the other
Between my double-praying lips and expecting
Not to choke? They don't ask the
Questions to my answers, they add or subtract
As their hearts dictate what will happen when
The beats stop.
Frank words
Are the enemy of long thick walls, and
More now would cause mental lockjaw.
What do they say about me when two seats are empty?
What if infinite universes lie above and below,
A pair for every thought ever formed in every head?
We are great because we think we are
But believing is not in thought--
The verbal lance is still sticking out, and in as
Well, and I don't want him in hell either--
But my mind is racing, not rationalizing
And the pain is radiating from
My heart.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Rhetorically Wondering

Not a pretty thought--
But then, it never is.
Not even when I've said I could have brought it about
Given a gun, and a ticket to the mansion of
The dictator of the moment.
And not when I think of anyone alive
In any other state, though it comes up
Often enough in my thoughts.
I am wrestling with jigsaws I don't understand.
And whatever may come afterward,
Rewards and rainbows or chaos and inferno--
Or nothing at all--how boring--
Nothing eases the idea lodged, of what I might do,
How I might react given a seat up close on
A black-creped pew, or sneaking in at the back
To search for a bare chair.
To be there is to be too close; to be away, too far.
And I will wonder, until I finally see
A meaningful lily, or an urn and a daffodil bouquet,
And I know I will wish then that I never wished to know.

Copyright 2001 by Katherine Foreman.

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The Rose

Disneyland holds all the answers
But now you would go skiing
With snow-blue eyes for company.
My fingers on splinter-blunt thorns
Feel wrong, as if the pressure of
Bending a wire could spiral the stem,
Unnatural, twisted and shattered.
The tips of cream-silk petals bleed.
This is what happened to me, then,
Being there at the wrong confluence of time,
There and shining with no one looking.
I grew my own thorns, climbed into a vial,
And the blush bleeds from the petals of my skin.

Copyright 2000 by Katherine Foreman.

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Rose-Colored Glasses

A word and I am nine
    fussing with the floral pinkness
    in my hair and on my hand,
Jumping impatiently around while the
    all-seeing video camera catches my
    dreadfully juvenile behavior at such an occasion,
Gorging on the pink mints that are the one
    pink thing not imprinted with "Happy Anniversary"
    or "Happy Fiftieth Louis & Lucile,"
Fidgeting with the pinkly poufy plumes of the
    pen for the guest book I'm supposed to be
    manning (nine isn't old enough to say "personing"),
Crossing my eyes for a video I never saw
    and now that its taker is gone I never will
    (but how could I know?),
Adding my smile to the rosy overdose
    as the camera captures my crooked grin,
    my flat hair and too-small Garfield glasses,
Wishing I could go home and discard
    the unnatural concoction of lace and polyester
    and the itching elastic binding the dyed carnations
    to my little-used writing hand--
A word, and I am nine
And silent with a flood of memory.
The silence perplexes him
As the remembrance hinders me.

Then, so much later
A glimpse and I am sixteen
Watching the perfect mental video fade out
And tempted to say nothing at all
As I secure the ribbon and white roses to my
Wrist

Copyright 1995 by Katherine Foreman.

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Saying Grace

(a prayer for academia--inspired by the tragedies of the AP crowd)

Okay, so we talk about you with if's
And think it raises us higher
But you know how we go off away and
Scream to you when no one else listens.
We have no excuse, carefully crafted or
Computer-error slapdash, that you will believe.
But neither is there any excuse we know for us:
Not for a push on a rust-chained swing that
Sooner or later snaps, rolling us sobbing to the grass;
Not for perpetual-motion machines running on
Guilt at failure, real or perceived;
Not for feeling at a knife blade and
Wondering if eternity is thick with motivation.
And we come to you unconscious and last of all,
When we are too spent to depend on ourselves and
Sometimes unable to depend on anything.
We wonder how things can happen, with your eyes on us.
We should wonder, even in your sight,
How they do not.
And they will, until our last resort is our first,
Permitted in all planes of higher thought.
And we will keep shrieking our frustration
Louder than our will--the only way to speak.
And we will speak, higher and lower than
Our abilities demand, and we will wonder
Until we can see ourselves, and you.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Second

One touch--
Like death with ribbons or
Pain with sprinkles,
A beautiful package for sadness and loss.
And I loved every moment, dared to feel
Triumphant at the beginning of my own destruction.
And it was my own fault,
My own feet stepping on every ember of cautiousness.
You can't take it back, but I don't want you to.
It has been long enough, waiting in darkness
For candlelight.
And there is no such thing as
Wonderful enough.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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Unload

Coming in laden
Frozen at the tips
The door seems miles away.
After wrestling with the stuff
We packed into the car
I want more than a heater,
More than a bath and a cat on my feet.
But you are not here,
Not tonight.
And as I trudge closer to comfort
I look up at Orion
And feel empty.

Copyright 1998 by Katherine Foreman.

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Washed Away

Nothing's changed except me and the facts
And the sadness I didn't mean to start.
But it feels different now you've said
It's wrong, and I still can't see your point.
And I think as water runs over my hands that
That's really all there is or can be.
The gold is wearing off the infamous ring
And something wears away from around my heart.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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What I Am

Not a Gregor but some weird accidental
Samsa cousin, of a branch where the baby birds
Are pushed out of the nest on the ends of
Bungee cords, bouncing back up at the first faulty
Flutter of weak fledgling wings.

Not hurt--not allowed to feel hurt by that which
Would wound deeply dealt to other daughters--
No, not hurt, because what could scar is a part
Integral to the whole, and as such unquestionable
Throughout the existence begun and lived in the shadow of this roof.

Not resentful of what I have been handed or
Jealous of anyone else's straight flush against my two aces,
Or hating the dealer or wanting a reshuffle, but
Searching in vain for some line in their chosen Hoyle
That will let me grow, and grow closer to equal.

Not afraid of what I might find when I gather the
Strength to discard my harness, not wishing
For different than is here, but only sad that I
Cannot imagine beyond this (never having known it)
And sad that I could truly desire to be free from love.

Copyright 1996 by Katherine Foreman.

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Where I Stand

Feet on the ground by the stepping stones
Terra firma underneath my shaking knees
And trembling heart stretched over chasms
That I never thought I'd see just from the edge
And now I'm hanging over, wondering, in midair.

No song would be enough, no notes sufficient
To sing the joy and apprehension strung through me
Waiting to be a melody, point and counterpoint
From each, seeming to be forever, with drumbeats
Resonating in fingers and throats.

Awareness ripples along every nerve, calm,
Inescapable and welcome, like the knowledge
Waking somewhere in my brain that there is
Something more here than eyes can see, or
Five senses pick up, something rare and invisible.

And for the first time I understand what I want and
What Juliet knew, and I see where I have stood
All this time, not alone but supported, held
By something if not the someone holding me now--
It is love, and I will not fall.

Copyright 1997 by Katherine Foreman.

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