Before I Sleep
Behind French doors
little squares of light align
upon corners of a paisley quilt.
My cat curls across
the footstool and an unwound
clock guards the candle on the mantle.
Outside, eucalyptus and orange trees
intertwine on the lattice, conversing leaf by leaf
in languages of night. Against the pane
yellows haunt fading greens
and meld with a cluster of pale blossoms.
Branches lift heavy arms in a simultaneous stretch
toward stars and earth.
They remind me of you—
bending my thoughts
into boughs of shadowy dreams,
before I sleep.
In a Hat Box
When I wake at three in the morning with stars
sprinkled between my curtains, and see
my old hat box wedged on the corner shelf
beneath scalloped shadows, I remember

its contents of unused wool from a needlepoint
canvas, colored pencils and the camera
with a broken lens. I recall a length of ribbon
too dark for my hair, business cards

that no longer matter, a plastic harmonica
from an amusement hall and an old monogrammed
handkerchief wrapped around a black and white
picture of you, leaning against a palm tree.

Back then, you were a transplanted Nebraskan
collecting San Diego summers in your pockets,
exploring tide pools and sailboats. Each Saturday
you rode the bus to Hotel Del Coronado

where big band music filled the Victorian ballroom.
One night you posed on the lawn in pearls and heels,
beneath a sand dollar moon embedded above the bay.
That was before you married dad. Before trips

to Bermuda and Europe, mundane chores, diapers,
three children, bike rides and sewing classes.
Before illness. When a slice of moon could move
across the Silver Strand, and still glint in your eyes.

© Karen Kelsay 
Bio: Karen Kelsay is a native Californian who spent
most of her childhood weekends on a boat.
Her husband is British, she is the mother of three
children, and she travels to England regularly to visit
extended family and enjoy the countryside.

She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize
and she is the author of five chapbooks. Her poems
have been widely published in journals
and magazines including The New Formalist,
Boston Literary Magazine
and The Lyric.
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