by Kathryn Gustafson

There were two voices:

One falling down 

Into a long, dark 


The other echoing back

To white, empty 


Then I realized: it was not two voices after all. 

Just one. Just mine, 

With nowhere to go, 

But up and down

the deep well 

inside of me.

Rebel in Bloom

by Kathryn Gustafson

There are things that might seem plain
About the box you think I’m in
Because of how I speak quietly
With a softness that could sound like timidity
And the way my questions form, sometimes,
Falling childlike at
the end of lines.

I don’t weigh the measure of my time

Against the world’s rigidities,

But it’s not because I have no fire.
In fact, I have my mother’s complicated ire,
Balanced by
My father’s chess games, admonitions,
And the words of a thousand books
That make a world within my head.

I’ve lived through my childhood horrors,
Met death inside the eyes of others’,
Held hands of people that I love, as they left this life forever.

I fight each day against a mind
That’s knotted as a tangled line
With a heart which has been shattered,
A resilience that is tested, battered.

It’s exhausting to admit:
How much loving people hurts.

(How many times do I remind myself what love is worth?)

So I watch and weigh the fire and the words.
To find the phrases that would win
the wars,
And lose the love.

Power to win.
Or chance to bloom?
A choice that no one would assume,
Is difficult.

But the gentle rebel in me knows.
That where things are burning,
Nothing can grow.