Kristen Baum
July 2021
Kristen Baum.jpeg

Kristen Baum DeBeasi was born in the Willamette Valley, Oregon and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She has lived in Ohio and Arizona, too, and the Sonoran Desert is one of her favorite spots on the planet. She holds a Master of Music in Theory and Composition and spends her time writing poetry, children’s literature, and music for film and concerts. Kristen lives in LA and has an inordinate love of fairytales, flowers, and writing fridge poems whose only limitation is the words on those little magnets. Her poem, “African Violets” was nominated for Best of the Net. 

 

Photo credit: Daniel Kresco

You 

 

find me again, 

in a book closet at your best friend’s 

house, a lidless box of colored pencils 

spilling onto page after page, 

the colorful language of you. 

Yellow-green, my willow-home 

 

behind the barn. Red and white, 

the bleeding hearts that drip 

from greening wands. Black, the piano 

with cracked and missing ivories, brass, 

its strings that rang in my ears, 

 

and yours. And you and always you, inside the yellow 

kitchen forming loaves of bread, your dark hair

in stark relief against the sunny color. 

The muffled ocean’s roar as from within 

your conch shell womb. I think 

 

you wanted me then. Before

I arrived to show you who I am.

Ōnamazu

 

If a poem were a word it could abracadabra you 

from there to here. Not the word alone but 

something behind the word that maybe the poet 

isn’t even aware of. It teeter-totters you.  

The poet understands because she’s left rocking too;

like she’s on the 23rd floor of a Japanese hotel 

and the giant catfish at the center of the world 

has just moved. The poet feels the building sway 

like a ship because even it is connected to everything. 

Are you shaken? Moved by the same things that move 

the poet? She wants you to feel like it means something, 

has significance—even if it’s mundane and you’re crying 

the tears of a life you didn’t get to live 

and in your desperation you breathe the prayer 

of the Buddhist who goes to Pink’s Hot Dogs and says, 

Make me one with everything, and they do. You forget 

the kid you never got to have, the ships that sailed 

without you; you even forget you were racing 

to the dock shouting Wait for me! but the traffic 

on Rodeo Drive was at a standstill and your partner 

wishes they hadn’t insisted on the detour, on showing you 

that thing—whatever it was—that you’ve both forgotten 

already. And you arrive at the dock without your luggage 

but it doesn’t matter. The ship has sailed. You stand, 

too numb to wave at the happy passengers 

bouncing their perfect babies and throwing noisemakers 

so you can celebrate their “precious little bundles of joy” 

but the noisemakers fall short, straight into the brine 

and you realize it was never for you—that life—  

and the meaning of life slips from your grasp; your mind

pulls out an emergency blanket, tries to cover you, says 

Hold still. You will warm up again. And you realize 

you’ve gone cold—really cold. Your mind starts babbling 

about how things don’t always work out, how 

the Disney family cruise is probably gross—you 

definitely don’t want to touch the buffet table—

too many germs—too much shit that can go wrong. 

And yet, like the poet, all you feel is the quake 

of the giant catfish thrashing; the ship rock-a-byeing 

like the 23rd floor of a hotel. The poet is still reeling; 

and what she desperately wants is 

to feel like she’s one with everything.