“Coal Smoke” by Kathryn Paulson

Kathryn Paulson


Through an open window
You spy a coal colored dog
Curled up on a plain rug
Smoke billows from the chimney
Silvery clouds floating in the sky
Silvery windows frame
Coal smoke floating in the sky
The plain dog curled up by the chimney
An open rug billows
Through clouds and dreams
Like a spy
A spy opens a window
And curls up a coal colored rug
The plain chimney floats clouds
Through the dog’s dreams
Smoke billows
Silvery sky
The plain clouds curl through a coal colored sky
The window and chimney opened
The silver dog spies
Dreams float, billowing
On a rug of smoke

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Kathryn Paulson: “I grew up in a tiny town in Wisconsin. Was poetry ever in my life plan? Nope, but neither was my traumatic brain injury. I fell on black ice in December of 2016 and fractured my skull and had a subarachnoid brain bleed. My life changed. Not every aspect, but enough. I have dealt with a myriad of issues that I wouldn’t want to hand to my worst enemy. But I have also gained some amazing things that I wouldn’t trade for ‘my old brain’ … one of those things is BBIG (Blugold Brain Injury Group) and the people associated with it. They have become some of my biggest cheerleaders. Having cheerleaders in your life is vital. These people have my back and don’t judge me on my bad brain days, and celebrate with me on my good brain days. The facilitator, Dr. Jerry Hoepner, has also introduced me to many new experiences that help me in my daily life, that help develop my coping skills, and that enrich me. One of those experiences was meeting Brendan Constantine, the Los Angeles-based poet. Jerry put together a couple Zoom meetings for us to ‘explore’ poetry. I don’t know what made me go; I have never been a writer. Brendan has taken our little brain injury poetry group under his wing and encouraged all of us to fly. I consider myself a creative being, but struggle with feelings of adequacy. I tend to think I’m not quite good enough for recognition, but I continue to find ways to let my creativity fly. Poetry has become one of those things to me. I have only been writing for about five months. I honestly don’t have a huge amount of time or brain power to dedicate to it. But under Brendan’s watchful eye, all of us in the group have blossomed. ‘Coal Smoke’ was done based on a challenge presented to me based on Richard Shelton’s poem, ‘From a Room.’”

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