Friday 3 March 2023

Five Poems by Karen Warinsky

Where Greatness Lay


History appeared in every moment,

all those pictures in my head

transformed into solid surfaces of stone, marble and glass,

while the stories of others

who’d already seen it

faded and paled

to my present, perfect participation.


Finally in Europe at 52, a chaperone,

I wanted my students to feel the echo,

let it take them into the past, sense the players,

wanted them to realize

what we come from,

why we left,

what we lost and the gains made.


Out on the streets the carousel of art made me dizzy,

all of Florence swirling ‘round

and I couldn’t breathe,

tried to focus,

and then there I was in a corner of Santa Croce

standing next to Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante,

the centuries pressing against me

and somehow, I took a picture in the dim church light,

burned the grainy image into my personal darkroom

before walking away.



Judy Woodruff Makes it Palatable


Some nights

I can almost forget what I’m doing

as I put the fork to my lips, take a bite

tasting whatever deliciousness

there is in our cooking.


Our family room is comfortable.

We have new carpet,

a woodstove,

two well-upholstered sofas, a built-in bookcase.

Now that the kids are gone

we take our evening meal there,

each on a couch,

glass of wine, glass of beer,

while the dulcet tones of fair Judy Woodruff

sooth us as we swallow

while Syria and Ukraine are blown up,

citizens in Myanmar are beaten with clubs,

and Hong Kong protesters are chased from the streets,

bloody and bruised.


Judy is implacable;

petite, blonde, preserved,


and she helps us stay just numb enough,

to get the food down,

not make a fuss,

not really need to leave the room

whenever she warns us

“This content may make some viewers uncomfortable.”



Nazi Breakfast


April break with nothing to do,

we drove into Manhattan to sightsee,

walk on the Highline,

pop into some shops,

meet our friend for supper.

Somewhere in the West Village we ambled into a gallery,

saw Vebjorn Sand’s big painting of Nazi’s at a breakfast table;

“Breakfast, The Banality of Evil,” it is titled.


The Nazi’s were in an April day too,

sitting in crisp uniforms,

hair precise,

shiny boots, shiny smiles,

and the sun shone too,

dappling bottles, table cloths, chairs.

The men in the painting look over maps,

maps of war,

war plans,

plans to kill

and maim




who quite likely,

did not








Interstate conflict, territorial disputes,

transnational terrorism,

full blown war,

governments eat at this smorgasbord of political unrest,

but never to fullness.


Yemen.  Syria. Afghanistan.


Power, control,

domination of souls;

does nothing ever stop

this striving to be on top

of another?


Sudan.  Libya.


Decisions, beliefs, ideologies

pile upon humanity

seek allegiance,

while people just look for their next meal,

a job, a warm place to lay,

some form of happiness,

joy too large a word,

too fleeting and slippery in this world of shadows, deception and greed.


Ethiopia.  Iraq.  Myanmar.


Today another oppressed citizen throws things in a bag,

pulls on a warm coat, a hat, boots,

grabs a child, a pet

and heads out into the newest line of refugees,

salvaging their life

chased by history, tradition, manipulation,

the wretched legacy of war.


Oh, Ukraine.



Toward the Horizon


A slant of winter sunlight tinged the trees,

cast its rose gold stream across our patch of woods

the beam low in the morning sky,

a searchlight along the cold ground

landing on leaves faded to peach

everything awash in “done,” “over,” “finished,”

and the brown of everything made me wish

for the missing snow, the ice,

the normalcy of January past

when folded coverlets pressed the sleeping soil,

a shimmer of white over all the dead and waiting,

a season to be counted on.


Now, I count on nothing,

the weather a carnival pendulum ride,

political alliances shifting,

economies surfing on the Covid waves.

I mask up,

keep my distance

destroy a lifetime of work breaking through

feelings that kept me apart,

my authentic self now encouraged to

go back inside and hide,

but the birds have flown to the horizon,

summoning the dawn,

and their song is a key unlocking despair.

Listen!  They are singing now.

Karen Warinsky began publishing poetry in 2011 and was named as a finalist for her poem “Legacy” in the Montreal International Poetry Contest in 2013.  Her work appears in several anthologies including  Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands, the 2019 Mizmor Anthology, and lit mags including Blue Heron, Circumference and Consilience.

Her books are Gold in Autumn (2020), and Sunrise Ruby, (2022) (both from Human Error Publishing), with work centering on mid-life, relationships, politics, and the search for spiritual connection through nature.  She is retired from careers in media and teaching and now coordinates poetry readings under the name Poets at Large in CT and MA.  find her at, or @karenw.21 on Instagram


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