So many lasers stroked the night,
the sky simply purred and burst apart.
We held our breaths, but not from fright
– the fireworks had launched their start.

like mad housewives and activists,
the missiles screamed their courses out.
And yet we were amazed and pleased
when globe-sized dandelions shout
their presence, our attention seized
by the panorama we saw unfold
in flaming fans of red white gold.

The air a continual flash and howl,
luminous arcs of sound and light,
a zillion stars machine-gunned through
and splintering the night.

Night’s nuclear poetry – so sadly reminiscent
of war – the glare of summer lightning magnified.
Global terrors may be distant,
the lack of care – undignified.

The sky as palette, canvas & hearth.
What boils over sparks into flight
a measuring of what they’re worth –
these engineered chips of lethal light.

May artilleries of illusions held
blast harmless passages aloft.
May people learn to feel compelled
to let their deeds and words fall soft.

If something must explode,
let it be this: not skin and
bones and flesh, but this.

An onslaught of firings that end
without corpses or tears,
only wisps of curled smoke
to mark a falling trail of fears.


Karen Gersch, who recently relocated to Orange County, has been writing since childhood, but is more known for her visual artistry.  A fine arts painter and illustrator with a BFA from Pratt Institute, she has developed diverse styles and interests in subjects.  So too, with her writing, often using it as a forum by which to express political issues and  incendiary topics – global injustices and studies of human behavior.   Both in painting and writing, Karen’s other career and life passion – circus – figures greatly.  She is a Russian-trained acrobat/juggler and clown who now teaches, choreographs and directs across the country.

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4 Responses

  1. Martin Elster

    Dear Karen, I like the idea and the sentiment in this poem. And love the metaphors, like the comparison between mad housewives/activists and the screaming of the missiles; and “The sky as palette, canvas & hearth.”

    Please bear in mind, however, that fireworks can do great harm to animals and wildlife (as does war). It’s the noise and smoke that are dangerous.

    I play outdoor concerts every 4th of July and, after the concert, I always try to pop in my earplugs! Then, on the way home, I drive through a cloud of toxic smoke. But I love your poem and the way you handle the theme.

    Since you are a trained circus performer, I should mention that my orchestra does a Pops concert every December with Cirque de la Symphonie. Perhaps you have heard of them.

    Speaking of juggling and painting, I bet you’re familiar with Rouault’s clowns.



    • Karen Gersch

      Thank you, Martin, for your comments and kudo’s! This was the first time I have ever entered a contest and given the global results, I am pleased and honored to be mentioned. Living in NYC, being sensitive to smoke of any sort and having always lived with dogs and cats, I am quite aware of the toxicity that fireworks induce. It is why I chose to reference war and bombings in describing and contrasting it’s aesthetic beauty.

      May I ask what instrument or role you play and in what orchestra? I am grateful, too, for the link to Cirque de la Symphonie. An impressive group, they look and feel Russian to me. I am a Russian-trained acrobat myself, and spent ten years choreographing and performing with Philharmonic and Symphonic Orchestras across the US. And yes, I am familiar with all paintings of clowns. If you care to peek, my art website is: I’ve also an art page on FB: “Art by Karen E. Gersch”, on which I post all my current work, commissions and exhibits.

      Warm regards,

      • Martin Elster

        Thanks for the link to your art website. I enjoyed looking at several of those delightful pictures, and will go back and look more! I see that you are, indeed, familiar with clowns. I also loved the paintings of the farm and the scene from the window of a moving train. And the acrobats. Excellent!

        The orchestra I play with is the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. I serve as percussionist.

        I didn’t realize your poem got an honorable mention. I just looked at the prize winners and noticed. Congrats! And thanks for explaining your poem more to me. That makes sense. The contrast, as you said, between the aesthetics and entertainment value of the fireworks to battles and bombs.

        If you’re interested, I have a few poems here. Here are the links.

        I think Cirque de la Symphonie is, as you thought, Russian. They are all Olympic-level athletes.



  2. D.E. Snow

    This compassionately expressed, painterly poem is a revelation of the underlying tension present in fireworks displays. It encapsulates the wonder and delight that precedes the fear and wonder of every sparkling burst of light in the night sky.


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