Sleep Hath No Power: Sonnet I


My heavy lidded eyes would like to sleep

like stones that drop in to a silent stream

to shimmy gently as I sink so deep

No brilliant stars to guide me as I dream.


But who can sleep with poems in the window,

that tap the thoughts of life and love in song

that reach inside the mind with seeds to sow

that dance in rhythmic cadence sweet and long?


Athena, Goddess of my mind and wisdom source

Will wake me with her healing powers

with art that generates poetic force

and leave me writing here for hours


So you can twinkle, twinkle brilliant fire

No stone will stop the spirit of desire.


Karen K.L. Espaniola April 20, 2012










Changing Winds: Sijo XII

 The wind changed, after all the shade was too cool, and the sun too hot,

Words had a buoyancy, muffled in the light air and laughter,

pale skies and mountaintops clouded my vision, and for a moment,

Your voice was lost in the breeze that carried my thoughts away.


Karen K.L. Espaniola April 18, 2012

Affirmations: 30 Years Of Exponential Growth

Affirmations: Yes, my 7th grade Creative Writing/News Letter class was worried when they walked into the classroom. The tables had been moved into a Last Supper formation, and I was especially excited to see them. “I am so excited to see you today! Have a seat around the table.” Four refused. Seated at outlier seats to the right and to the left, they were leery of anything I might consider fun and exciting.  But, as the core team of students began the process of affirmation, the outliers began moving closer, trying to edge into the conversation.

First, I told them about my high school friends and all the notes we had passed during classes– humorous notes, cheering-up notes, dramatic notes, sorry notes, I-heard-you-sneezing-from-down-the-hall-notes, and never-ever-dying-love-for-each-other-notes, all which I had come to believe were the basics of highschool teenage-hood in my time–those crumpled notes, cried over notes, over creased notes. And, a note by a very dear friend of mine who wrote that she was going to write a Love Letter to everybody in the school starting with me.  I am quite certain that before the age of hidden cell phones up the sleeves and tucked in books, passing notes was the core of student communication. The proof is that thirty years after graduation, I still have them tucked away for rainy days, and so do other people I know.

       “So, are we going to pass notes today?” asked one of my more brilliant students.

       “Not yet, first I want to tell you about one of the most interesting teachers I ever had– Bill Taber! Do you know what he used to make us do? We had to meditate on bricks, and crumpled up balls of wire.  Sometimes he would stand on the desks, and once he even made us run around the Main Building in the snow with our socks on! But, one of the most memorable things he made us do was  to make Affirmations.”

     “Miss, was he a hippy? Are you going to make us stare at bricks? Will you make us run around the building in our socks? What’s an Affirmation?”

“Hmmm…no, not a hippy. A Quaker. You only wish I had a brick for you to stare at, and I might just make you run around the building bare-foot next time you can’t settle down.  But, Affirmation…THAT is the key word today!”

I proceeded to tell them that we would go around the table saying a positive thing about someone else at the table.  At first, they didn’t know what to say. One girl asked permission to say something nice about herself.  Then, they were saying, “She’s Nice” “She’s nice” “She’s nice” “She’s nice” and I reminded them that there were also other positive adjectives we could say about each other.  The affirmations got longer, and the outliers moved in to hear better.

 One girl crawled out from under her desk so she could participate.  “What about me, Miss? Can’t I say something?  Can I tell Jasmine that she has nice, long, silky hair?” And she laughed, and Jasmine laughed, and pretty soon everyone had something better than the last to say, until pretty soon one student was pledging her undying friendship to another student, and they were holding their hearts and saying “aaawwww!”

Okay, I thought, this is going over well.  Then, I introduced the next step.  We got a list of all the 7th and 8th graders in our school–154.  We were to divide the list into four parts, and our writing class would break up into groups of 4 and 5.  Each group has a Name Reader and a Note Taker.   The Name Reader reads the name to the small group, and the group discusses this person until they find the best Affirmation.  The Note Taker writes down the Affirmation. In this way, we will come up with a couple of pages of Affirmations for our April Student News Paper.  They will be called the Affirmation Pages. The students were totally excited by it all.  The period was over before we knew it, and they were planning the next period as they walked out of the door.

30 years ago.  30 years ago I went to Olney, a Quaker boarding school in Ohio–a place surrounded by apple trees, farm animals, forests and rolling hills.  It was a place where friendships made, and love found would last a lifetime.  And though, as in all high school back drops, there were dramas, and teenage anti-authoritarian moments, anger, and tears, there was, most clearly, a connection to the most basic human needs–a culture of love, respect, understanding, creativity, and spirit.  There have been times when I have forgotten those gifts in some of the darkest days.  But now, today, after sharing pictures, notes, and laughing, I remember these gifts with such joy–gifts that I have the fortune of sharing with my own students, and they with their friends.  Exponential force.  For these gifts, I want to say thank you.  

Karen K.L. Espaniola

America Used To Be A Circle II: Sijo XI

America used to be a circle, golden sphere of sunlight

spinning round her deep sweet rivers, ‘neath her sacred ground

Caressing myth and rock, her leaves of oak and maple veins


Her sap was sweet and simmered long, over embers ’round the flame

days of fire-flies and falling stars, that lay in sweet fields of hay

and the low bellow of cows who took the slow journey down soft paths.


But moonshine eyes have stolen her, under cover of the cool night

to bode above the world, in the bowels of the city lights

a realm of splintered abstract art, velvet lips that speak the dark.


With patchouli scent behind her ears, and nightmares at her heels

        she strides quickly into the night with her Nefertiti eyes

        Breathing in the distant stars, and howling at the silver moon.


And now, the dawn will shake her orchestra of shattered sound

        fold opal beams of fragile light, her pale sky politely calling,

        spinning round her deep sweet rivers ‘neath her sacred ground.

                                           America is a circle.

Karen K.L. Espaniola April 14, 2012

Sijo X: Raindrops

Raindrops falling on tin roof, I wonder if water is solid

or sound that flings itself around, it makes a rusty rhythm

coming down so fast, first slow and gentle, then strong and full.

Karen K.L. Espaniola April 13, 2012

E’lan Vetal


Fire-Stealer, awake us with your embryonic spark,

and spattering blood flows like fat on the spit, masterful crossing

insular matter, out of the dust, clay sinews stretching,

bones bending like forging stone, hands molding our intelligence

lifting us gently upright, sharpening our myth and mind.

Your supreme ordeal, the peck pecking at your resurrection,

jabs at your regrowth by sharpened beaks that salivate your rebirth,

Are not hindered by cold clanking chains that hang you high above

those rocky mountain crags whose sheer drops into Hell’s gates, instead,

ignites martyrdom against those massive wings of Zeus’ army

who couldn’t conquer the power of sacrifice in his own abyss.

Karen K. L. Espaniola     April 13, 2012





dayz i’ve learned to keep my mouth shut ’round me

where vicious hatred feeds

on others’ needs, rav’nous for the untruth, and

blame games for something bigger than the hallway smut

that shelters chaos and racial slurs,

and whispers behind closed doors.


you prepare to gut me,

Pleeze…scrape me free of your idiocracy,

me, the instigator of gang fights and lock-downs,

a catalyst for the ridiculous

laid on my shoulders,

side-eye glansez follow the lead

like sheep over a cliff of staus quo,

“jus’ follow the joe”

as if over 50 years of injustice had never occurred.


it’s clear of what’s happ’ning here,

i speak to dead ears that have told too many lies,

a meaningless blather blisters my intent,

a blast of injury, meant to bury truth,

an abrupt sense of dead hollowed hearts

falling on fallowed justice

black raindrops in the dark

swept just past eye’s view.

“it is i!” i want to yell,

that dare to respond to your untruth.

Your yellow ocean bubbling with your audacity.


Bravo, the wailing…never ended,

in the sorrow of the children

waiting to be set free.


drowning, draining, in secret to silent dead weight,

shrink from syllabic counting and archaic language.

to the marching in cadence

to the soul seeking meaning,

i empty myself with tears.


Karen K. L. Espaniola April 12, 2012


9th Grade Excuses: Sijo IX


9th Grade Excuses: Sijo IX


I nevah know, I wen forget, I lef ’em home, I no wuz hea

Wen you told us dis? Wat I spposed to do? Wat? Dis one? Fo realz?

You jokin’ me? I nevah understan, someone else wen take ’em.


I no like do ’em, I no can do ’em, I wen turn ’em in,

My maddah wen trow ’em away ’cause she was mad at me,

My maddah and faddah wen fight and I tink I no wuz home.


I nevah had pencil, I nevah had pepah, I wen lose ’em.

I wuz at one party, I had fo go church, I no can fine ’em.

I had chokes adda stuffs fo do, it stay at my addah house.


I nevah taht we had fo do ’em, and I nevah know how,

Miss, wen fall in da dog dish and wen get all wet and stink,

I going do ’em aftah, I going do ’em latahs, if can. Can?


Karen K.L. Espaniola April 10, 2012


Ripe Fruit: Sijo VIII

Ripe Fruit: Sijo VIII

Sweet, tree-ripened mango gets no glance from you, it is baffling.

Even passion fruit, tart and tongue-watering slips from the vine

unnoticed, and the sunlight dancing in shadows hopes for your shade.


Karen K.L. Espaniola April 9, 2012

Dreaming: Sijo VII


Dreaming: Sijo VII


The curtain blows in like the ocean in the trees, listen carefully,

for cowery shells spiraling purple, brown, in the bark of ancients.

Breathe deeply, and taste the salty sparkle of waves on clacking stone.


Close your eyes, and feel the gentle lap and slap of sea on hull,

hollowed trees, hallowed ocean, breath and breeze, sun and skin

taste the motion in the wake of your dreams, keep your window open.


Karen K.L. Espaniola April 9, 2012


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