Karen Craigo ~ Four Poems


Every year about this time
I thumb through a Rolodex
of names—my names, all
the pos­si­ble ones, everything
I’ve heard whis­pered or shouted
my way, in love or in panic,
in anger. There are nicknames,
like the one a kid gave me
in sixth grade: Birdlegs,
and real­ly, yet today I’m shaped
like a ball of cook­ie dough
bal­anced on a pair of sticks.
It fits and always has, like so
few names do. I’m not sure
about Karen—I don’t think
I’ve ever asked to speak
to a man­ag­er, one hand
glued to a hip, severe
hair cut frost­ed in stripes.
I’m gen­tler than that—
I for­give and make do.
I was Poopsy as a child,
but only to my mom,
and I liked it, still do, still
would come if you called it.
My stu­dents call me K‑Dawg,
which is sil­ly, but the lesson
is seri­ous enough: Call people
what they ask to be called—
a way to avoid trouble
from a new­ly mint­ed PhD
or some­one try­ing to sell you
a ped­a­gogy of chairs
in a cir­cle, a bub­ble pierced
in a jiffy by a cour­tesy title.

I have chris­tened myself
with secret names, ones
that match my spirit
or my hopes for it,
and some­times I’ve asked
to be called them—
Plenty or Harmony or Bliss.
What I’d like is a name
from cre­ation, an out­door thing,
but not pretentious—a thing
I’ve seen in my walks, here.
I swear I’ve spotted
a moun­tain lion, even
if no one believes it—Puma,
Panther, Painter, they’re all
so unlike­ly, and my name
shouldn’t make you skeptical
at the out­set, nor should it be
ridicu­lous, like a big man
you might call “Tiny,”
for laughs. But I’ve been
a lot of places, and what
I’ve seen has made a mark.
By rights I can be Geyser
or Glacier or Corpse Flower,
if being a wit­ness grants
me a claim. But I’m looking
clos­er to home, with its
Honeysuckle, Wild Strawberry,
its Porchlight Moths and Feral
Cats. And I’m start­ing to settle
on Dandelion. Hear me out.
My son, now a teen,
will still pick them for me
if he sees one larger
than the oth­ers, like
a saucer in a toy tea set,
and come to think of it,
I remem­ber Poopsy’s mom,
how delight­ed she was
to be pre­sent­ed with fistfuls
that she’d put in a glass
in the kitchen. Some things
you should know about
the dan­de­lion: It is sustenance
for bees, and for my father,
who grew up on its greens,
always edi­ble but best,
he said, in the spring.
It is old med­i­cine, good
for the liv­er, antioxidant,
anti-inflam­ma­to­ry, good
for cho­les­terol, blood sugar—
but that’s not the stuff
of poet­ry. Its beau­ty is—
how one spring day it just
mate­ri­al­izes, with sisters,
like how the sun sees itself
in a pond, dap­pled. Look,
I’m not everyone’s thing,
like the dan­de­lion, but I
believe in what’s bright
and pret­ty and good,
and so that’s the name
I choose: Dandelion.

Every Day Is Mother’s Day

Right now in a picturesque
village—seaside, hous­es painted
in bright but fad­ed yel­low, the trees
fruit-bear­ers, but it’s spring
and they’re in flower—you can see
a woman walk­ing down cobbles,
swing­ing her can­vas tote, face
tipped a bit to morn­ing sun, and she
doesn’t sus­pect her quaintness
or charm—for her, the day
is quite ordi­nary, though perfect,
secret­ly, by at least a dozen metrics,
and she even has a mom and plans
to call her the first chance she gets.

Sunday I Forgot I Missed You

Sometimes grief
is noth­ing much. It’s the knock
you pre­tend not to hear
as you keep put­ter­ing, the kettle
you’d just as soon ignore,
for as long as you can, until you can’t—
its keen­ing is hot and scrapes
your ears. I’ve tried
to lose the loss of you but it seems
to have dug in, like a tumor
or a tick. I haven’t thought of you
in days, and there are days
not think­ing of you is the only
thing I can think about.

Augury, 2020

This morn­ing, the first
of a new year, new decade,
I fell down the stairs—
the whole flight, feet first,
then side­ways, with a rump-
pump-pump at the bottom.
I sat there a minute, touched
all my parts, flexed my arms
and legs, and it turns out
I’m fine, not a scratch
or bump, so take that,
year: Bring me your worst,
and I will give it back to you,
unscraped, astounded.


Karen Craigo is the Poet Laureate of the State of Missouri, as well as the author of two full-length poet­ry col­lec­tions: Passing Through Humansville (Sundress, 2018) and No More Milk (Sundress, 2016). Professionally, she is the edi­tor and gen­er­al man­ag­er of a small Missouri week­ly news­pa­per, The Marshfield Mail. She lives with her hus­band, two sons, and two cats in Springfield, Missouri.