Beneath Brambles

A villanelle

Beneath the tangled brambles, look around.
Vines creeping, smothering, create the dark.
A trillium insists her bloom be found.

Canes strangle, branches slip to ghastly ground
from hemlocks cased by thorns that puncture bark.
Beneath the tangled brambles, look around.

The sun strains, searching through a forest crowned
to settle juncos, chickadees, a lark.
A trillium insists her bloom be found.

The bleeding hearts, grapes, twinberries are drowned.
A thicket broods, breath throttles close and stark.
Beneath the tangled brambles, look around.

Prune back, slash down, amass canes in a mound.
Clear all the smothering, search for her spark.
A trillium insists her bloom be found.

White petals hide in briars that abound.
With grace, she waits to show angelic mark.
Beneath the tangled brambles, look around.
A trillium insists her bloom be found.


Tree Planting

“…music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop.”-Henry David Thoreau

The ground was marked the previous spring day,
a square of garden pegs and bits of twine.
I swing the pickaxe, feel it strike the clay,
vibration hums in bones, from wrist to spine.

Disrupting space that’s bigger than I need,
it’s simpler to refill than start again.
With steadfast force and time, the ground will cede.
My digging deeper is not done in vain.

The breath of metal breaking earth, the firs
that rustle under red tale hawks’ hoarse calls
are orienting to a soul that stirs,
like firm untangling of the tree’s root ball.

In waiting for the sun and rain to drop,
I work the ground to yield myself, this crop.


Care under the Cottonwoods

The cottonwoods bloom yellow overhead.
She pours the tea and serves the guests his cake.
The tulips open wide their bowls of red.
Fine china, linen, table by the lake.

A breeze blends calls of geese and stories told
to shifting clouds. Guests smile and look away
from sunlight fading. She will not withhold
more cream or sugar on this special day.

A parting brunch before the lilies fade,
before rains stop, before lungs fail to fill.
before eyes shut, before his skin is greyed.
She wheels him out to see the colors spill.

In June, the yellow blooms will turn to white
then slip away like ghosts to blur the night.


Karen Shepherd is a public school special education administrator who lives with her husband and two teenagers in the Pacific Northwest. Her poems and short fiction have been published in riverbabble, Literally Stories, CircleShow and Sediments Literary Art Journal.

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6 Responses

  1. David Hollywood

    This is tremendously visual poetry, and I have just read them to my gardener wife Ruth, and we both think your wonderful.

    • Karen Shepherd

      Thank you for your kind words. This comment has brightened my day and I’m glad to hear you and your wife enjoyed these.

  2. Satyananda Sarangi

    Greetings Karen ma’am!

    A versatile display of art in these three beautiful pieces. In the villanelle, the images are flowing like a wondrous rill, with great follow. Both the sonnets are touching, they reminded me a bit of 19th century poetry.

    And the next thing I am going to do is looking for more of your poems on the web.

    Best wishes and Regards.

  3. William Ruleman

    I just had to join Mr. Hollywood and Ms. Sarangi in saying how much I enjoyed reading these delightful poems!


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