Karen George has lived in Kentucky all her life.  She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, and teaches writing at The University of Cincinnati's Communiversity.  Her work has appeared in Vestal Review, Arts Across Kentucky, The Barcelona Review, The Cortland Review, and Wind Magazine.  She has been awarded grants from The Kentucky Foundation for Women and The Kentucky Arts Council, and was selected by Lee Smith as co-winner of The Janice Holt Giles Award.  Her chapbook, Into the Heartland, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011.




My sister emails me links to Kodak
where she uploads photos of insects,
birds, squirrels from the backyard
of the house we grew in.  Close-ups
of a praying mantis eating
one bumblebee after another,
intermittent shots to unfold the story:
bee on the Live-forever,
bee caught in the mandibles,
bee a lump in the throat.
Zoomed so close I see the eye pattern,
the translucent body, the fuzz of bee stripes,
mantis the exact cool green
of the foliage the bees thrum
in and out of, succulent leaves
that hold water in their pulp.

My sister tends the gardens
our father planted forty-six years ago:
five entwined rhododendrons brush
the second story windowsill,
miniature fruit trees exceeded
full height, (lapsed back to ancestors,)
our first Christmas fir close to forty feet,
Bradford pears lost to ice storms,
(a circle of shredded bark all that remains.) 
But the original daffodils self-spread
in ever-widening circles on either side
of the front door.  We've talked about digging
a few up to transplant to the wall near his grave
to expand above him year after year.






Memory Coils  
(Written in response to a set of rosewood door panels, carved in the late 19th century by a Yoruba carver in Nigeria, viewed at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.)

                             -For Richard  (1943 - 2006)

A carved serpent coils
at the pinnacle of each panel,
spirals I want to follow
in and out of the labyrinth.

Memory saddles
the nape of my neck –
the day we had our image taken
with the Burmese python.

Fused by its eight foot weight
draped on our shoulders,
body thicker than
your thigh. 

When we inhaled
its scales shifted,
a ripple like a wave
in slow motion.

Neither of us knew 
what nestled in the channel
on its way to the sea
of your lungs. 






                             -For Lou  (1930 - 1998)

For days I stepped over
the negative of a sweetgum leaf,
five-pointed star stained
on cement near my porch.
Wondering what alchemy ached
its thin veneer to falter
and transmute its imprint:
scorched-black edges,
veins infused vermillion,
stem severed —
thick dark curve
that channeled water
root through sapwood.

Before more rain came
I applied layers of lacquer
to preserve the leaf brand,
divining vestiges
you, ten years gone,
dyed in me.

How like the sweetgum's
five-lobed leaf
my open-fingered hand
with lifelines furrowed —
maps of where I'll go.
But will I leave an emblem
soft as sea-green,
vivid as violet,
or hard-edged as red?