Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Carolyn Hill-Bjerke


How An Angel Works

Take comfort, families:
someone escorted them
to their next appointment.

I’ve seen him myself—
walking the corridors
of Mount Sinai in jeans,

ready to take the next
soul on the list. He checks
for weightlessness before taking you.

When you don’t have the strength
or circumstances to object, he knows
you are ready to go.

But for that crowd
on Tuesday, he held
a bullhorn, shouting instructions

to his new flock.
His job: leading.


The Nurses of the InBetween

My infancy still gags me as I struggle to wash the taste of the formula
from my mouth – though I was lucky to have it and be in the asylum.
The nurses wrapped me with the weight of myself, alone in a plastic bed.
Like a curse, I was a nameless paper baby, who’s father had run away.
No one knew what else to do, but grant infant me a way to stay.

While the lawyers decided who I was going to be, it was the nurses
who touched me, bathed me, fed me, sang to me, changed me
when the hands of my forgotten mother were strapped to a bed
somewhere a few buildings away, never to be freed again – at least
not to hold me. No christening, no water, no forgiveness by a priest.

My mother had nurses also. Maybe some of our nurses knew both of us.
Maybe they would smoke cigarettes and drink coffee in the lounge
while they talked about the infirm mother and abandoned daughter.
Maybe they would talk about holding you down and just holding me,
during our time between who we were and who we were to be.



History Lessons

When someone gave me the tablet of myself to record upon—
I chose my chisel to carve stories into the pure, smooth stone :
the metal leg brace, birthday parties of others and my own,
battles with my brother, Homecoming photos on the lawn,
living in London, graduating from college, becoming a wife,
moving uptown to the Eastside, letting my words out of prison,
hemorrhaging on the Emergency Room floor, planning a baptism.
And I thought the hard part was trying to keep the dust of my life
from filling my eyes blind. But I knew some events happened
before I started sculpting this record, and one day I saw through
the cloud where the first tablet with my initials sat covered in dew.
To my surprise, there were experiences of mine fashioned
upon this tablet by numerous authorities – an unknown lot.
And I learned that everything I thought was my fault was not.



After Self Entombment

The world turned around to shake my hand --
I had to slither from the darkness to grasp it.
The light hurt my eyes after decades in my dirt.

The hand of the world was warm and wet
with the breath of the souls inhabiting it.
My pale boney digits were lost, yet gripped.

I felt myself rising full of hope and unrest.
The blanket of my grief slipped off of me and
past my feet as I was lifted up past my youth –

I could see a me that was worthy of this release.
I saw, for the first time, what the world wanted to know.
And it was - surprisingly - good.