The Death of Me

Something is killing
My love of the printed page.
I try hard to delve
Into a good book,
And end up shelving it.

When did it go wrong? Did it happen
In stages, catch me unawares?
I long for those days of yore
When I waited patiently
For the book-filled truck
Bringing volumes by the score,
Every Wednesday.
When I would load my arms
With as many as I could,
Carting them home to pore through,
And take each word to heart.

Is it this device
I have afore me now?
These easy keys allow
The sharing of all my secrets,
Trying not to bore
With what might make
You turn elsewhere?

Is it brain-circuits, not
Firing as before, unable to absorb
Anything of length or strength
Or train-of-thought?

I ought to shut this down,
Pick up a tome that rests in dust
Upon the weighty shelf,
Or else, I’ll lose myself.

Or else,
I’ll lose

Kathleen Mortensen ©2016


For Edgar, love Annabel

It was many a year ago, ’tis true,
In a kingdom by the sea,
A maid was I, when right on cue
Arrived Mr. Edgar, A.P.;
And this maiden lived with no other thought
Than of this man to be free.

I was a child, and he was a man;
In this kingdom by the sea;
But he loved with a love—a possessive love—
This Mr. Edgar, A.P.;
With a love he claimed the angels of heaven
Envied of him and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago
In this kingdom by the sea,
I stayed out in the cold night, chilling
Myself, to shed Mr. Edgar, A.P.;
So that my “highborn kinsman” came
In order to set me free,
And shut me up in a sepulchre
Of this kingdom by the sea.

The seraphs, now twice as happy in heaven,
They soon befriended me;
Yes! That was the reason (but no one knew,
In the kingdom by the sea)
For the wind came out of the cloud one night,
And of Edgar I was free.

But his “love” was stranger by far than the love
Of gentlemen saner than he—
Of many more normal than he;
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the devils beneath the dark sea,
Could permit the twit’s obsession
So they hood-winked poor Edgar, A.P..

For the moon never beams without filling my dreams
With the unstable Edgar, A.P.;
And the stars never shine, that I don’t hear him pine
Over poor interred little ol’ me;
And so, all the night-tide, he lies down by the side
Of his “darling”— “his darling”— his life and his “bride”,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
Unaware that they cremated me.

Kathleen Mortensen © 2016

Time On My Hands IV

I wake and stretch;
fingers resist, insisting
on their preferred curl—
reluctantly along with
tired limbs.

There’s black dirt
trapped beneath short nails—
residue from mulch
hand-spread on parched ground.

We are both drying up,
the earth and I.

This organ, this skin
is burnished by the sun,

Its network of fine lines
weaves organic leather
preserving the underneath.

These hands,
God willing,
may serve—’til my death.

Kathleen Mortensen @2016


Please visit the below links to read the first three poems in this series.  Thank you.

Time On My Hands III

Time On My Hands II

Time On My Hands I

My Piano and Me

The door shuts behind them
when they go; the key clicks their good-bye.
I sigh, and then stroll
over to my piano.

The wooden legs scrape
my maple floor.
I ease along the leather seat
and open up the lid with the heels
of my hands.

Daddy bought my upright-
grand piano
(Mother always says he did)
when I was twelve years old.
Crafted by a Toronto company
of note
(pardon the pun),
she’s a Heintzman.

Anyway, today’s the day
we get to play,
just her and me.
She’s a “she”.
You see, we decided that
a long time ago.

She and I have our favourites:
Schubert, Chopin,
but Kermit’s song,
we love to play,
and Elton John,
can make our day too.

Together, we struggle;
I never practiced
much as a kid, and
she’s older now,
but I got her a tune-up
for Christmas.
(Well, Mother did).

Ludwig’s Sonata comes easily
we both enjoy the ebb and flow
of waves and keys;
I stretch short fingers,
and she seems to shrink to meet them—
as if she were a friend.

Don’t ask us to share
our rare time together
(we’re a bit selfish that way),
and we don’t have
much time before
the key
is in the lock
and I go back
to my day.

Long ago, it was decided by those
in the know that
I’m no virtuosa.

my piano
wasn’t paying attention.

Kathleen Mortensen @2016

Many thanks to oglach at Na Trioblóidí for challenging me to write this piece in response to a comment I made on his blog.  I cannot recommend his blog too highly; you really must see it for yourself.

If you enjoyed this poem, you might also like these:

A Composition

Piano Man







I bought for my mother,
A marmalade treat,
To have with her breakfast
On toast for to eat,
But next morning
She never got up from her bed;
From her pillow,
She did not raise up her tired head,
So she never again will taste
Thick-cut orange spread,
That she so used to love
On her golden-grilled bread,
But forever, the memory of her
Will not fade,
When I spread my toast with
Her orange marmalade.

Kathleen Mortensen @ 2016

A Sestina for OSI and TT (killing two birds with one stone)


My First Sestina

It’s never easy trying to write a sestina,
Allowing for the metre and the form,
And having to incorporate designated words
Such as prompts, like denouement and clock.*
I’d like to have it all tied up so neatly,
Causing oohs and aahs because I’ve made it rhyme.

Unfortunately, this one isn’t going to rhyme;
It’s my first attempt at a sestina.
I’m afraid it will be done any way but neatly,
Although I try to be a stickler, come to form.
It’s just this time I’m under the clock,
And sadly, I’ve been left bereft of words.

I’m normally a woman of words;
Out of my hat you’ve seen me pull some rhyme.
This week I’m stumped by denouement, clock,
And this strange notion that I must write a sestina.
You see, lately, I’m obsessed with poetic form–
Which usually works out all so neatly.

I’m type “A”; I get on well with “neatly”.
Tritely, I would say, “I just love words”
(Fenton and Fry have got me hooked on form).
I have always had this thing for rhyme,
But Dr. Seuss didn’t teach me about the sestina–
You know, not many ‘nyms go with “clock”.

I have to wonder whose choice it was, clock?
Denouement is never going to work in here, neatly,
Since I have this fixation with the sestina.
Auden and Bishop and even Kipling had the words,
But I’ve only seen Swinburne make it rhyme.
Lately, I’m just such a stickler for form.

Occasionally, I’ll write something without form–
To me, it’s like telling time without a clock.
Lear and Nash and the early poets loved rhyme.
T’would be lovely to tie this all in neatly,
But I’m afraid I’m lost for words.
What did you expect? This is a sestina!

Take it or leave it, this is the form of my sestina–
A few lines and words in order, precise as a clock.
Shame it’s never going to rhyme, neatly.

Kathleen Mortensen©2009

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*Denouement and clock are this week’s prompts for One Single Impression and Theme Thursday (see sidebar for details)