Thursday, September 15, 2022

Kathryn Kyker visited the Northeast Kingdom!

Since this posting of September 15, Kathryn has sent two more recent poems.  They follow Buttons of Resistance.  One has to do with turning 60, and another with the new restrictions on reproductive choice.  She's surprised to have written two poems with rhyme, but we don't mind.  

Kathryn is currently finishing a memoir of her many years serving as an Emergency Room Social Worker.

Kathryn, Sept. 12, 2022, Barton VT

Kathryn took this picture of our gathering for lunch
(thanks to Adrien Helm,in foreground).
Others, clockwise, Ellen Mass, Judith Janoo,
Mark Creaven, Sylvia Manning, Stephen Hickey

Sing a Song of Sixty                                                         August 2022, kk


Sing a song of sixty

A pocketful of seeds

Sprinkled through the years

Examine all your deeds

When your life is over

Are there fledging sprouts

Trust that what you’ve tended

Exceeds your piddling doubts.


Sing a song of sixty

A body in decline

Summon all your lessons

Watch the stars align

When the show is over

You’ll rest in mother earth

Bequeathing all your riches

Entice the ground to birth.


Sing a song of sixty

So much yet to do

You never held a dewdrop

Or made a daisy stew

When the day is over

And you lie down in bed

Will your thoughts be settled

Or whirling round instead?


Sing a song of sixty

A pocketful of seeds

Sprinkled through the years

Examine all my deeds

When the year is over

I won’t know what’s to come

Life remains a mystery

When I’m sixty-one.

We Are All Handmaids Now*                   by kk 7/22


Excuse me, please

It’s hard to breathe

This corset binding me

As I try to see

My foot on the edge

Teetering on this ledge

Falling into the place

Where freedom has no space.


Excuse me, please

It’s hard to breathe

Your hand on my throat

And I’m having to tote

The deaths of now and then

For what you call sin

As if we do it alone—

It takes two to bone.


Excuse me, please

It’s hard to breathe

Stench on the land

Is this the plan

Make us scurry

Our lives turn slurry

trying to mitigate

Your fist in our fate?


Excuse me—

for not saying please

It’s hard to breathe


Falling into the place

Where freedom has no space.



                                * Margaret Atwood, author of A Handmaiden’s Tale

September 15, 2022:

We had opportunity to meet Kathryn in real life!  Adrien held a reception at her Greater Barton Arts  this last Monday, September 12, 2022.  We've grown to admire Kathryn as a poet and a person by benefit of Zoom meetings of the poetry group in Athens, Georgia that some of our Barton Wednesday Poets have been able to attend.

The poem below is not brand new.  I found it in older posts; it was written in July of 2020.  Kathryn, if you see this, send us a new poem to post along with this one.  (But this one is as relevant now as ever, so it's a prize to reprise.)

Thank you for coming all this way.  Thank you for your poetry.

Buttons of Resistance                       

Kathryn, Sept. 12, 2022, Barton VT


Before I was a mom I knew—

You Can’t Hug Children With Nuclear Arms.

The simple lesson—

Violence Ends Where Love Begins—

lost to me in a marriage where the two

ran into each other and got hopelessly blurred.

A whale smirked Save The Humans—

a sweet delusion so we could forget—

that every creature would be happy to see us go.

(except maybe dogs)


A Good Planet Is Hard To Find, Don’t Dump Toxic Waste, and

Social Justice—almost an obligatory afterthought—

all packed away when new men came to power and


was going to change except it didn’t—

except me.


COEXIST, my lazy bumpersticker nod of compromise

to a status quo tangled by intolerance.

Recycle Yourself, a snarky keychain plea

for organ donation—

one of the last things I believed in.

But no peace activist could fail to rise again on January 2017

except…no, even the dead ones.


I wore a pin of Obama’s words on a hat made by a woman on a bus

from my hometown, with two shades of pink and tiny ears.

Of all the inspired expressions from that sea of women,

Princess Leia’s banner ruled:

her hair plastered in cinnamon-bun swirls, a tunic you can fight in, boots—because

you never know how long you’re going to be on your feet in a rebellion, or who

you might need to kick—and

a light saber to show the way—

A Woman’s Place Is In The Resistance

accept no exceptions:



giving up your power by making yourself small


surrendering choice quietly


the lull of fatigue, the luxury of distraction

And maybe

Despair Ends Where Hope Begins.                                                         

                                                                                                                     kk  6/2020

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Three poems by Stephen Hickey



The three story house on Dakota St.
with tar shingles covered in red bead sprinkles in poor imitation of bricks 
but no one could be fooled,
very ugly
and very unlike real brick.  Durable, though, still there fully intact decades later
when I came again.
Vietnamese were there then.
I must have seemed an intruder.
I certainly felt like it at the time.
To explain that I once lived there
would have been hard
and I didn't try.

Across the Avenue Lou's grocery
was not there anymore, and
the flat-roofed synagogue
was by then an evangelist church.
I missed the rabbis who had me light candles
some holidays and sabbaths, although
I only did that a few times, in truth.

Then there were those older couples
in elegant places next on down the street
who were virtually invisible, unknowable
to a working class five-year-old. 

But further on down our street
lived Stevie O'Brien's family.
They were like us -- poorish
working class, friendly though.
But we never became real friends,
and I can't tell why now.

Then there was Dominick and his pretty mother.
They owned the first TV on our street.
I would sometimes go over to see
Hout Gibson westerns that were
two decades old by then but seemed fresh.
I can't remember his mom vividly.
Dominick was smart, tough, athletic.
He didn't take me seriously,
but that is how it was for me.

I didn't engage people very well even then.

The lawns were small but well kept,
large, very high hedges planted long before,
helping establish privacy for the well-to-do
from working class types like us.
No hedges for us or even real lawns.

The many empty lots across the avenue
were of houses long before torn down --
their basements filled in by the most un
productive dirt 
fit only for crabgrass and garter snakes --
apparently the remnants of housing rebuilds
having been put off for several decades.
I think the coming of the Great Depression
had changed those plans 
like it had changed many others.

An old man came by every so often
on his flatbed horse-drawn truck
to pick up our saved old newspapers
and scrap metals, as he had before
The War and long before.

I had a few friends then that I made
in spite of my rather withdrawn behavior
fed by too much TV watching
and radio too.
                                                                June 20, 2022


 She regards the viewer pleadingly.

A foul accusation given in jealousy --
a man has suffered a painful rejection
and uses beliefs then common:
She bewitched me to distraction.
A woman burned to death, however comely,
cannot give herself to someone else.

The actress, though, still calls to me now,
a full century later, in apparent excitement.
The words, though, must be supplied,
unless the lip reader can read Danish.
The woman seen, in all her beauty,
provides the image and inspiration,
though in life she must surely be dead.
I would that I had known her then,
even if I would be gone with her.

Living Life Like a River Flows?

We seem to follow where life would lead us.

But we do make decisions all the day long
leading us down to where we think we want to go.
Best not to get too far beyond the apparent flow.
The channel that life is cutting for us
varies constantly, usually in the smallest ways.
But we cannot count on the flow always;
and, we need to provide for the bad.
The worst is always possible but hasn’t happened yet.
The worst would be ultimate dissolution.
If it comes, we will not be here anymore.
The worst exists always in the minds of a few:
the most twisted, the most pathological
may experience it constantly and continuously.
Yet, we cannot allow it to dominate our thoughts.
We must constantly and actively interfere.
The flow cannot be completely trusted.

The mind is not the flow and must be governed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Bruce Taub's poem for our June 22, 2022 meeting

This was our prompt:

From Stazja McFayden's  
Poets for Human Rights e-Newsletter 2022-5:

The Greeks were considerate in naming the different kinds of love – eros (romantic passionate love), philia (deep friendship), erotoropia (playful love), storge (unconditional, familial love), philautia (compassionate self-love), pragma (committed, companionate love), agape (empathetic, universal love), xenia (guest-friendship, hospitality).

The idea was to choose one of these forms of love as theme for a poem.

Bruce chose philautia, compassionate self love.

Self Love

When I love myself

I am small and thoughtful

And don’t use much space

Or oxygen.

I am a man who listens well

When I love myself

And then am critical of my narcissism,

My need for attention and affirmation,

The immense amount of work it takes

Just to keep this tall, fumbling man with bad manners

And nose hairs

Alive and safe.


The impact of truths exposed

Will not always be pleasant or good.

When appraising one’s self-criticality honestly -

Confronting one’s truest truths

Is not always pretty -

All of which makes self-love a challenge

But commends the faint object of the man’s affections

To high self-regard for his accurate self-appraisal

And self-critical honesty, which can also be love.

Bruce Taub and Pearl in Glover, June 2022

You can read more of his poems on his blogspot:    

Sunday, June 5, 2022

At last: a poem from Steve Cahill!


The Killing Floor                              

Steve Cahill

I remember the soft velvet darkness

of night and the first colored cusp of dawn

the rocking rhythm of the loaded truck

and the sounds of the animals inside.


I remember the cattle pens and chutes

narrowing down and forcing them to go

into the slaughterhouse in single file

to the waiting men on the killing floor.


I remember the man with the hammer

and how he delivered that stunning blow

with the cows bleeding out while still alive

and eviscerated before they died.


I remember seeing their liquid eyes

watching the hooks and pulleys winch them up

while they are being flayed and dismembered

by men wearing bloody aprons and boots.


I remember their knives, so sharp and fast

like flashing lights along the moving line

where hundreds of cows were killed every day

packaged up as fodder for the masses.


I remember political functions

campaign banquets and rich donor dinners

serving tenderloin with lofty language

new promises for last elections lies.


 We’re at the portal of the abattoir

which is another name for slaughterhouse

looking at the labyrinth of pens and chutes

hoping its the way to democracy


            but its still the same old abattoir door

            opening back onto the killing floor. 

                                                                Steve Cahill