My Grandfather’s Parka

My Grandfather’s Parka / by Laura M Kaminski

honoring the memory of Rev. W.R. Bottoms, Lt. Col. (Ret.), U.S. Army

I look at my husband at the edge
of the lake, bundled and warm,
in an inherited parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
watching ripples of the molten
glacier greeting sunlight.

Some half a century ago and more,
this parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
wrapped him, young and strong
and proud, a chaplain with
the U.S. Army in the alpine snows
of Europe, its holocaustic winter.
When we received it, the inside
pocket clutched and held protected
(against those years and that
excessive darkness) his worn
copy of a book of prayers,
Prayers for the Armed Forces,
prayers of comfort, prayers of
courage, prayers of kindness
for the enemy, and the words
to give before and after every, every
every time of dying.

How often, while the snows fell
on his hood and on his
shoulders, did his chapped
fingers, gloves removed to
offer a final human touch,
a steadying handhold to
the dying as they passed
on to meet with God — how
often did his fingers split
their cold-dried skin and
bleed (unnoticed) in the pockets
of my grandfather’s parka?

We traveled in October, a late
vacation at the lake, but now
in these still waters I glimpse
a ripple of the truth: we
were only transportation for
the celestial gyroscope, our
journey was not, as we thought,
about us. We really only came
to bring the parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
to quietly sway with the
small morning waves. We are
only one small eddy in the
universal balance, rocking gently.
We only came to bring his parka
to a place of peace.

–Laura M Kaminski

(I would like to thank Conclave: A Journal of Character, for the initial publication of this poem in Conclave: A Journal of Character Issue 6.  It is also included in the collection last penny the sun.)



Orion Magazine April 2014 poetry exchange event

I participated in Orion Magazine’s April 2014 poetry exchange event; participating poets were randomly paired up to exchange at least three poems during the month of April. They have just posted some excerpts from the exchanges here. You can read more of Michael G Smith’s wonderful work here; I am honored to have been assigned as his partner for the exchange.

Why So Thirsty?

Why So Thirsty? / by Laura M Kaminski

Maybe there were seventy
Or maybe only eight
Who, unbeknownst to one another
Went creeping through the gate

The one had a bottle
The other had a jug
Another a jeweled chalice
(From which he’d dumped the dusty bug)

The one was guided by despair
The other lit with hope
Another by a donkey
(Who led him by a rope)

And in the darkness all of them
Went stumbling to the Stream —
The one that had a lacquered bowl,
The one that saw it in a dream

Each one thought himself alone
And filled his vessel up,
Shuffled back home through the dark
Careful not to spill the cup

They gathered up Reality
They filled up with the Truth
They bottled up Humanity
(And corked it so it can’t get loose)

Vessels of Separation
In every shape and size
Capped and corked and lidded
(So nothing dirty gets inside)

One says only his is Holy
Another acknowledges all the rest —
Magnanimous in his acceptance
(Suspects in secret his is best)

On holy days the thirsty gather
For a reassuring look
That water is still in their Bottle
(And God is safely in their Book)

Isn’t it strange and funny
We take such exquisite care
With the things we see as “Holy”
When Love is everywhere?

–Laura M Kaminski, 2014


Book Review: Bowen

Book Review: Bowen / by Laura M Kaminski

after reading Ash Bowen’s The Even Years of Marriage, Dream Horse Press, 2013

I make my way past the blonde bikini-babe
laid out on Geoff Greene’s grass, up the ridge
to the pink house that’s burning on the cover.
This is where I enter, turn the knob.

“Weather Report” — already on page twenty-nine.
I suddenly realize I’m still standing, my right hand’s
still clutching packaging, left thumb and pinky
doing an awkward dance to turn each page.

My experience in galleries of living authors’ poetry
left me completely unprepared for this: instead
of moments captured flatly, still life from skewed
perspectives, observations caught and stuffed

like trophy fish upon the wall (their eyes glassy,
artificial) — instead, I’ve entered the chambers
of a heart half-consumed by fire and yet still
candle-lit, and within this dwelling, I find sculpted

beings, the most exquisite wax museum I have ever
seen, I tread gently between the delicate headstones
of unborn children, stare long at the rigid back
of a loose-hipped woman who never looks my way.

I’m startled by a sense of pressure on my
shoulder, certain it’s Security come to remove me
from this place of fragility where I wander, uninvited,
a hallow where the vibrant air is awe. Instead,

some unseen ghost or gust must have reached out
to catch its balance, brushed against me for a moment.
An Icarus-feather, without wax, is drawn by gravity
along my cheek, a sincerity that makes me shiver.

–Laura M Kaminski, 2013