Crack Open/Emergency: A Forthcoming Chapbook From Karen Poppy — peculiar journal blog

“The poetic voice has invisible instructions:/crack open in case of emergency…” from Crack Open/Emergency, Karen Poppy’s forthcoming chapbook by Finishing Line Press. At the end of 2019, we were honored to include two of Poppy’s pieces (“Sonoma Wildfire” and “Defining”) in Issue 7 of peculiar. Now, as we inch and bide and scrimp and grieve […]

Crack Open/Emergency: A Forthcoming Chapbook From Karen Poppy — peculiar journal blog

Austria by Train (Poem)

Austria by Train

This train is clean and cool.
It rocks back and forth, reassuringly.
Calm lullaby, a soft day, the earth green
With the ashes of my ancestors.

A separate poem: the train is hot,
The mouths dry, so many bodies
Together packed
For transport. A separate poem:
Those who escaped, my friend’s
Grandmother giving birth in a plane
From Vienna to Shanghai.

How to separate? Politics slide back.
All that’s missing today is the moustache.
This train glides through pretty towns.
I write in English. All grows green
Over the German tongue.

(Originally published in Voices de la Luna, on 2/15/2018, Volume 10, Number 2)

Lost Fire (Poem)

Lost Fire

Have it your way:
And freeze it in the snow.

Classify, divide.
Or lump these words
Together on a slide.

Remove poetry to one side
So listening silence
Is nothing.
The nothing that is.

Nothing that is not there,
A hymn in the air.

Blown wind that winds
Through the double helix
Of our creation,
And back again.

No sound.

Don’t tell me.
Vibration without

A noiseless crackling.

(Originally Published in the Wallace Stevens Journal, Spring 2018)

Three Poems

Here is a link to three of my poems published in Young Ravens Literary Review, and I am also including the poems here.

pexels-photo-579902.jpegThe Flower

It’s too late.
Last night’s storm
Tore flower
Head from stem,
Wind lifting
It skyward,
A white,
Tumble down,
A spiraling star,
Strewed across
Every inch
It seems
Of garden floor.

I had planned
To photograph it,
This flower,
But thought how
Much prettier
It would look
Following the rains.
Freshened, wet,
And glistening.

Violence doesn’t lie.
Nor does it hesitate.
It tears apart
The gentlest
Things, the most
Beautiful things.
It doesn’t wait
Until after tomorrow.

A few petals
Still clump together,
Reaching upward
From wet earth,
Like a dying child’s hand.




Clear all scars from my body.
Make me a transparent beacon,
Bright with light. Be gone
All loneliness, the absence of salt,
My tongue’s empty grasp.
The word is redundancy.

Freed from you, I am still weighted
to the earth.

Michelangelo knew, and I, I’ve known
All these years: we are chained here
To the rock. We climb each
From this inverted mountain. We sing
Up our words and forget that clarity
Is praise. Smooth me to a weightless quartz.
I beg to become less that I know.



After Winter

No country closer
Than the tulips
Before me.
I am lucky.

No sound nearer
Than the warm air.
Just you there.
Filled with sun.

Then you open.
Heat dazzles
Each of you.
One by one.
Open air.
Another season.

No red fury.
No snowed-in pain.
Just you, again.

Yellow tipped,
You bloom.
Out of love
For yourselves.

There is love
For me.

Cannot live
In just one color.





The days grow colder, and as darkness arrives earlier, we turn inward, to hearth and home. There, we seek nourishment and to nourish those we love.

I just poured my tea, hot and satisfying. Yet, nothing is as satisfying as creating a hearty bowl of soup, then feeling it round you out and make you whole–except, of course, sharing that creation and seeing it bring comfort to others.

In the past month or so, I have created numerous versions of ramen soup. Each version comes filled with nourishing vegetables and noodles, warming herbs and spices, umami of red and white miso, and the gift of a poached egg.

Other comfort foods also satisfy. Mashed potatoes immediately come to mind for me, both as my own go-to comfort food, other than soup, and the one that has brought me the most pride in the kitchen.

My favorite pick-me-up meal is mashed potatoes and gravy alongside a Coca-Cola with chocolate syrup.

The moments that I have felt the most pride in the kitchen include these two involving mashed potatoes: 1.) The time that I made mashed potato filling as per my grandmother’s knishes recipe and left it in the fridge, intending to use it for knishes the next day. My sister found the bowl of mashed potatoes, and not knowing that I had made them for knishes, heated them up and started to eat them. Then, she came into the room where I was sitting and said, “It’s weird. These taste just like Grandma’s knishes.” That’s how I knew that I made the filling for my grandmother’s knishes just right! 2.) While working in my college’s catering department, I made mashed potatoes for a dinner at which the honored guest was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Enough said! (I am sure that she did several planks afterward:

Creating food for our loved ones can take place in the home, and also in the community.  Love thy neighbor and provide food for those in need: participate in food banks, food pantries, and meal programs (; donate to organizations that help those who face hunger and isolation in the community (such as Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, and No Kid Hungry; and simply share a meal with someone who could use the company (since, admit it, we can all use the company too).

While popular during the winter holidays, it is important to continue to provide this nourishment all year round. For ourselves, our families and friends, and the greater community.








More Than Connected


“In our first moment, we truly realize what it is to be alive./…We are more than connected.”

–More Than Connected, by Tito (

On Sunday, I thought that my sudden need for caffeine and craving for a peanut butter cup mocha had drawn me away briefly from a family lunch to the café across the street. Really I should have known better. The intense pull came because I had to hear the song.

In the corner of the café, a singer from a local band, Tito, played guitar and sang “More Than Connected.” I ran to the bank for cash for the CD, paid for it and grabbed my mocha. Then, I went back to the family lunch, and after lunch we drove to Nicasio, a beautiful country drive, listening to the CD.

I have continued to play the song “More Than Connected” all week, even as I come back to complete the final edits of my first novel, in which Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a main theme. In my life, just as in my novel, the connectedness of everything and everyone in life comes together, in the great Hallelujah of it all. Our connectedness is a great miracle, from the smallest atoms to vast expanse of the Universe, so intricate and considerable, with most of it beyond the understanding of our minds. Yet, we understand more of it with our beings, and we have to listen to that intuition. It brings us to the right moments and the right people.

In listening to my intuition, I come again and again to the right moments and the right people. I also make many mistakes along the way, but I keep myself open to being, as the song says, “more than connected.” We don’t have six degrees of separation, we have what may be nearly infinite degrees of connection. That is what it means to be alive. More than connected.

Several times in the past few months this has proved true for me, just as it has all my life. It reconnected me on a deep level with a college friend, an editor who has now edited my novel. It brought me to meet a new friend who has become an inspiration to me as I write and who introduced me to an expert source for my novel. We went together on an incredible road trip to see wild horses at a BLM facility as part of research for my novel, causing additional connections. Writing my novel has brought about so many amazing connections, for which I am extremely grateful. Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way.

Being more than connected has additionally led me to, with what seemed to be a random coincidence, be in the same room with the daughter of my late mother-in-law’s best friend. The best friend who had dedicated her own novel to my late mother-in-law. Another connection is arising because of that one, or perhaps several connections as my world continues to expand.

Then tonight, I met a woman whose house burned down in the Santa Rosa wildfires. We shared our grief, since my son’s school burned down in the same wildfires. We spoke about the connections most of us in our community have to someone who has lost something or someone precious in the wildfires that tore through Northern California this month.

I did not tell her yet, but wildfires also feature in my novel, and wildfires had recently burned near the BLM facility that I visited with my new friends. On the other side, water features in my novel, as well. Two powerful elements that we rely upon, but which can also cause so much destruction. The world can be chaotic at times, and that chaos is as real as the connectedness of it all. We live in a reality of opposites, and of paradox.

What I did tell the woman whom I met tonight is that I would like to introduce her to another woman I know. They are both textile artists and couture seamstresses, and share further, more profound connections that I believe will make them great friends.

We can use our connectedness–indeed, our interconnectedness–for good. Let’s use it as bridges to help each other and heal each other. Let’s use it to help and heal our world.




Rising Up

I posted this today, in a slightly different form, on my company blog:

On Monday, my nine year old son’s school, the only non-profit school for highly-functioning autistic students in the North Bay, burned to the ground in the Northern California wildfires:

I consider myself extremely lucky to work from home as a remote worker, since my son literally has nowhere to go to school now. He is at home with me, and as I work, he does school work that I assign to him: math, science, art, and reading.

The air quality is very bad, so he cannot go outside to play. His afterschool program near our house is still open, and he has a few hours to play with his friends indoors there, at least. We hope that his school will be rebuilt, which will require funding and time, and that in the meantime, he will soon be provided with another adequate school placement.

For now, given what has happened with the wildfires throughout California, this is a teachable moment in our home, too. Since the company that I work for allows its employees volunteer hours, my son and I spent this morning purchasing needed supplies and bringing them to the Equine/Large Animal Evacuation Center at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, CA. In addition to people, animals large and small have been displaced, injured, and even killed by the Northern California wildfires—and by the other recent wildfires and natural disasters throughout our country.

As we picked up the supplies for the horses and other large animals, the sun glowed eerily red in the sky. The sky grew whiter and whiter as we drove closer to the wildfire areas, offsetting the once golden hills, now scorched black.SELRES_4e6d9d4a-6ac9-44d9-b0b0-8f2743e48754


My son said, “The sky looks whiter than a blank canvas.”


The smoke and ash had turned the sky white, whiter than a blank canvas. Destruction can be that turning point—whiter than a blank canvas—where we rise up, create, and rebuild. As long as others rely on us, that is what we will do. Like the founder of my son’s school so poignantly put it, “we will rise up out of the ashes.” We will be the Phoenix, rising up to provide service to others, those who need it the most.