12 floors above the earth - title

Photo: Dana Bol  

In Somewhere a Bird, Karen Silk's first poetry collection, the sense of grief and loss is countered by equally strong courage, love of life, and faith in the healing properties of the natural world. You will be stronger for immersing yourself in this book. About it, Vijay Seshadri has written, “Karen Silk’s still and perfectly poised poems unify interior and exterior landscapes with such understated skill, with so much gravity and justice and plain human wisdom, that we don’t know which is which. This is wonderfully disciplined, commanding work.” And this from Kevin Pilkington: “The poems in Somewhere a Bird are filled with a vividly rendered lyricism; each is a journey with a sense of wonder and a compelling sensitivity. In clear, concise language devoid of ornamentation, Karen Silk explores the complexities of the state in which she and all of us live: between the loss of those we love and the redemptive joy found in the natural world. In fact, nature is ever present throughout the collection in literal and figurative Wordsworthian celebrations that transform her world into an ‘exotic’ realm—a type of

Front cover artwork by Dana Bol
Eden which she will never be forced to leave. Read this impressive collection slowly, carefully, and you too will be able to ‘...admire each dawn.’”

Karen Silk has been a psychotherapist, teacher and business woman. She is currently with Sotheby’s International Realty and serves as a Director of the Washington (CT) Environmental Council and a board member of the Lake Waramaug Task Force. In an earlier phase of her life, she was one of the founding members of the Palo Alto Peace Center, which brought together faculty and students from Stanford University along with area clergy and citizens interested in the issues of non-violence, peace and justice. She was married to the late Hugh P. Silk, Headmaster of Wykeham Rise School in Washington, Connecticut, as well as The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and Kent Denver School. Karen continues to live on a farm in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Throughout the many and richly varied phases of her life, she has been a writer.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-30-6

Copyright © 2012 by Karen Silk

6" x 9" paperback, 60 pages





I smile at you, the sort
I’ve been warned
about, across the barn.
Pale hair grows
above your lips.
Light from one lone
bulb high in the rafters
shoots shadows
in every direction.
Horses swish and stamp,
lean out to be touched.

We ride, you behind,
bareback, barefooted,
racing from the gashed
mouths of our mothers,
our fathers’ broad
boozy laughter.

Filled full, electric
with lightning
the dome of sky
covers us to the end
of wheat fields and rivers
where another world begins.

The horse that you love
carries us far from the farm.
Your hands touch skin beneath
my wind-billowed blouse.


How welcome
this desire
long dry
and on the table
mangoes and pears.

In perfectly
round moonlight,
a bird sings.


Pineapple stencils, faded red, ring
the room, a border below the ceiling.

Late afternoon light confettis through locust
leaves, lacing the walls where we lie, discussing

the habits of hawks, on a white iron bed, covered
with blue-striped sheets, cool as a summer dawn.

Doves coo and prowl the undergrowth. Down valley
thunder trembles and the air is suddenly still.

Golden hairs shimmer on your arm
then rise electric next to mine.


You grasp my hand across
the oak table rubbed smooth
with years. Fire from the stone
hearth lights our eyes tonight
as words, heavy as snow,
fall from our lips.

One summer evening
dancing on the pier
under a low-slung moon,
my ear next to your heart,
the sky flashed tiers of fire.

Today we trod the woods
below the barn. You wore
your frayed, red-hooded coat.
My arms lashed your thin waist
to mine as we journeyed out
across the sea of leaves
slippery beneath our feet.


That last Sunday he asked me to take
down pictures, cards and streamers.
He was going home.
Then I touched his skin,
papery from radiation,
the first time in months.
I even kissed him.

In the bed where he died
he lay covered except his head.
I hated how his mouth
didn’t close. I wanted him to look
beautiful loosening the mooring
lines, drifting.

One summer, years ago, we climbed
the canyon, hawks floating high
on the thermals.
He lifted his hand,
shaded my eyes from the sun.

Tonight the air in the attic holds
secrets. Papers scatter the chestnut
floor, spill over the rim of a dusty

box. I lift one thin letter
from its envelope.
It is what he wrote to me
the night a starling
flew from the linden tree.


Five years on the hill beneath
the hundred-year-old copper beach

you have watched days rise
above your slender grave.

Difficult to believe you are contained
in airless space, you who filled

rooms with laughter and ideas,
restless for the world and for me.

Seven or eight times I have lain
where you rest, faced stars,

the dark sky teeming,
alien and vast. Not once

have I been brave enough to turn
and lie face down against the grass.


Most mornings I awake with courage
which usually vanishes by noon.

Then the high sun obliterates all shadow
and the winds have died.

The village horn sounds lonesome
remnant of the rural life.

Afternoon hours settle still
over the land, the lake and me

as I thumb through a throng
of possibilities which tomorrow

I may take seriously.

As the day begins its burn into evening
I again feel as brave as the warriors

who once owned these hills, as bold
as the red-tail that swoops down

for its prey. And then again
I know the boat will be there,

its nets in fine repair, oars in well-oiled
oarlocks, the water calm

as I journey out.


Come with me into the garden,
see especially the fisted peonies
where tiny ants crawl, an opening.
And over here
the feathery nepeta attracts butterflies
and bees.

Earlier, crows everywhere.
I wonder about the lives of crows, how
their intelligent, ambitious hearts
get them into paintings, novels, and poems,
even the garden at Howard’s End, calling
from the gate post to other crows
close by in fields.

Think about the care and thought
it takes to make a garden,
about how knowing there are cool pastures
of grass and glade beyond
gives added sweetness to the bright scent
of a summer morning. How the coyote
prowling the meadow with its fierce dream
can will the heart to move.

Who does not remember the first garden.
In the beginning, Eve, completely comfortable,
stands naked beside Adam enjoying the shade
of the considerable apple tree. They are innocent,
unafraid, about to understand shame, what I
sometimes feel when I cannot let my mind
run wild, knowing I am the bee, the butterfly,
that I am the ant, the blossoming.

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