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Karen Winterburn

                                 THREE-PETALED LOVE GHAZAL
                              (All Other Loves at Center Arrive at Love)

All Other Loves

The Infant Warrior sings in every tongue, inflames all other loves.
Beware ravishings of the swaddled One who contains all other loves.

When did my desire turn on me with its green hunger, its hollow teeth?
My craving craves me back: pinched and jealous god who slays all other loves.

Poplars glint and shimmy in their spangled chorus line. They shiver, swept
by gusty fingers of a flirting sylph who disdains all other loves.

I abandon my mandrake garden. Now cankered roots poison the ground.
Juicy djinn’s eggs, stolen for my silver bowl, red-stain all other loves.

Moses said. Moses said. He’s dead. All the Earth is Egypt in the egg.
O Exodus hatched from the plagues of those gods, unchain all other loves.

Language ladled into Karen like alphabet soup from deep Word wells:
bright clad children queue to crazy-quilt the looped refrain, “all other loves”.

At Center

This day is the end of my life: boundary enclosing the center.
All my days sigh, fall in spent rings around me, exposing the center.  

Hankerings crowd my heart at cross purposes to draw and quarter me.
Warring loves clash! Which contentious itch is this bulldozing the center?

Your Spirit in me waits; crouches low like a pilot light: patient fire,
while each ignited cell in me, a hearth and pyre—glows at the center.

Such insatiable satiation! Can’t say no to the rhumba urge.
Weight, mass and swivel merge—with gravity presupposing a center!

Listen, heart: who deep-carved into you these toxic runes and puzzling wounds?
Hold still for the ghazaling therapist who’s diagnosing the center.

If you’re reading this, it means I’ve died. In lieu of tears, Karen sends you
colors full of joy till in time all arrive, disclosing the center.

Arrive at Love

Inching, inching down to the well far beneath the fog, I strive to love.
Crouched light on its lip till you tell me to tip and I nose-dive to love.

A filmier face leans out of yours; it winks and scolds me: “You’re dead, dear!”
snaps back as I slip slow through the narrows of the night, deprived of love.

Once said, these words are in the way: snapshots stalling a silent movie.
Words of all my yesterdays lie yellow-edged in the archives of love.

The city sings: a thin-skinned orange; juicy sharp high C inside. Wait.
Six wafer moons pass; peel back rind of the unexpected life I love.

Hidden to elude pursuit, I hang this hasty bamboo curtain and
peek quick-eyed at you from between the slats till I can survive your love.   

Karen, pivot here on the hinge Contingency. Simplify to this:
you do not reduce to one, but us. Hinge on this kiss; arrive at love.


Karen Winterburn writes poetry as a spiritual exercise. All her poems are prayers, or the means by which she prays, or the fruit of prayer. Karen works in Adult Faith Formation. She lives in Glenview, IL with her husband. They have four grown sons and eight grandchildren, who are also the means by which she prays, and the fruit of prayer.


About Karen Winterburn