The 2River View 20.2 (Winter 2016)

Karen June Olson

This Time Around

We walk white halls and gaze in grace.
Another medicated room, a woman sings,
her mother’s body curls toward shadow.
You choke. No hymns of comfort
for your mother and dead son.
Bare elegies given over to a priest—
what can he know of a mother’s loss?

A mob of complaints
labors between breaths so shallow
words are work to form.
The sheets are thin as skin,
vinyl pillows,
the certainty
of cold canned beans.

It’s a cloudless night,
nothing to stop the stars
from mapping the sky.
People depart.
Cars pass on going somewhere.
We imagine the leaving.
See the moon, the big white moon?

A Struggle to Get Out

The silver lake at home
is unmoved, as flat and dark
as a grave waiting.
Not a ripple.

You struggle to live,
gulp air like a fish reeled out of water,
a captive in their arena.
They draw blood until you empty,
make mute with morphine and masks.

For five days we wait.
Rub oil into your feet,
sleep on bedside chairs,
call in the girls, sing
songs and fragments of prayers.

Time is bruised
with transcendence and blunder.
We wonder as we open the window
for the small bird banging against the glass,
if it’s right.

Karen June Olson was recently selected to participate in the 4th annual juried Poetry Writing Workshop with Marge Piercy. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Mas Tequila Review and UCity Review. Olson lives in Webster Groves, Missouri. contact

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