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.

Like Water: A Poem for International Women’s Day



Like Water

We put out fires

And forge the unexpected paths

Through the oldest mountains.

Do you ever stop to think about

How we overcome changes of space and time

Like a magic trick

That no one sees,

Or that everyone expects?

We take on new forms constantly,

And make it look like serenity itself

Like the most natural thing in the world.


Thank you to all the women who carry the health of an entire family on your back, sometimes with no acknowledgment for the way you have sacrificed your status, your body, the dreams of a younger self. Thank you, also, to those women who flaunt their intelligence and expertise in the workplace, who are not afraid to be called “bossy,” because they know they are simply leaders.  These paths are seen as oppositions to one another, but they are not. They are both brave. Neither is understood fully by society. We choose one, the other, or some combination of both. There is rarely a situation wherein everyone understands our choices. We make them anyway.

Thank you for those who do things differently, to the warriors who never felt supported.  Thank you to those who appear so very delicate on the outside, but who love more strongly than anyone else in the world.

Thank you to the mothers and the daughters and the friends who know exactly what words are needed to heal a broken heart. Thank you, friends, for the way you have taught and inspired all of us.



Your Last Autumn

It drifted in twirling pathways

Of deep grey rain and golden sunbursts

On the mountains

–Your last autumn.

Anxious finches, the rustling light on leaves.

The world in memory. The world in preparation.

Only in Fall

Can the world be angled so differently.

Your eyes were a cerulean blue,

Like the sky,

Your last autumn.

I wonder what moments were focused in those lenses.

Crinkly-smile lines and warm sweater hugs?

The final leaf falls, in a sigh.

But now it is some other Fall,

And I see grays and golds

And blues

And you.

-Kathryn Gustafson, 2016