August 4, 2021

Kari Gunter-Seymour


Today I gave a guy a ride, 
caught in a cloudburst 
jogging down East Mill Street.  
Skinny, backpacked, newspaper 
a makeshift shield, unsafe 
under any circumstances.
I don’t know what possessed me.

I make bad decisions, am forgetful, 
cling to structure and routine
like static electricity to polyester,                 
a predicament of living under 
the facade I always add to myself.

Said he needed to catch a GoBus,
shaking off droplets before climbing in. 
He gabbed about Thanksgiving plans,
his mom’s cider-basted turkey, 
grandma’s pecan-crusted pumpkin pie.

It was a quick, masked ride.
Bless you, he said, unfolding himself
from the car. No awkward goodbyes, 
no what do I owe you? Just Bless you
and a backward wave. 

At the stop sign, my fingers stroked 
the dampness where he sat minutes before. 
Sometimes life embraces you 
so unconditionally, it shifts 
your body from shadow 
into a full-flung lotus of light.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Kari Gunter-Seymour (from the conversation): “I come from a long line of self-sufficient, resourceful, hardworking people. As far as poetry is concerned, my work is Appalachian through and through. Growing up near my grandparents’ farm in the very small village of Amesville, Ohio, I was sheltered. We all had a bit of twang in our voice; we were all kinds of colors and shapes; and we didn’t care because we all grew up together. A lot of people don’t even know that about a quarter of Ohio is in Appalachia proper, and that there are pockets of Appalachians throughout Ohio, those who out-migrated north to find work just before, during, and after World War II.” (web)

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January 24, 2019

Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2018: Artist’s Choice


Untitled by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Image: “Untitled” by Kari Gunter-Seymour. “Substance” was written by Peg Duthie for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, December 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Peg Duthie


I blame the malevolent fairy
tales where the princess
always presents a creamy complexion—
porcelain, silk, satin, dewy
as unblemished petals—bah.
And fie on fathoming witches through
the coarse-and-homely-as-cartons pelts
of women earning their crow’s feet,
scaring thieves away without straw men.
The muscle and mastery needed to stir
sludge into sustenance, and then to scrub
the kettle clean enough for brewing cures—
why is it when boys play with powerful
powders and brines, it’s honored as chemistry
rather than cooed at as cookery
or cursed as conjuring? This is not
the province of unformed chicks.
Let me show you
a shape of a happy ending:
not the visage of a white washed egg
but the graying angles and curves
of a tested cradle,
the invisible hands
that clean up whatever’s after.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
December 2018, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Kari Gunter-Seymour: “Full disclosure: I was secretly hoping for a poem that was not so obviously about an egg or the carton, or for that matter a womb or chicken. Maybe a poem that discussed texture or extremes of angle and light, as those topics often come up in conversation about this image at exhibitions. A poem that was not above roaming beyond the edges of the photograph. ‘Substance’ does all that. It dances me in and out of the frame, asks the timeless question, discusses each element so cleverly ‘a creamy complexion—,’ ‘the coarse-and-homely,’ the ‘graying angles and curves’ and lands so solid ‘… a tested cradle/ the invisible hands …’ I could go on and on. Brava!”

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June 22, 2014

Kari Gunter-Seymour


We love our sons.
Raised them rich on farm land
or city streets, or Hailey, Idaho.
Taught them honor, to step up
for right and good.
Even so, it may prove true
that your son is responsible for six deaths,
though a spokesman for the Pentagon
can’t confirm.
As for my son, he stopped counting.
Had to, lest he turn the weapon on himself.
You’d be amazed how clearly
a soldier can see his target
through a military issue scope.
Brown eyes, sometimes blue,
a dark mole beside the nose,
the awful realization defining
each face a split second
after squeezing the trigger.
It’s fight or flight.
Some stay, some flee.
Some get rewards,
some come back alone,
hauling body parts of friends
in zippered bags,
while people in the free world
drink their lattes
and complain.
An admiral on TV today said
when one of your shipmates
goes overboard, you go get them.
You don’t ask whether he jumped
or was pushed or he fell.
You go get them.
That’s all well and good, admiral,
but what are you supposed to do
when the whole damn ship is sinking?

Poets Respond
June 22, 2014


Kari Gunter-Seymour: “I became a military mother in 2003 when my son deployed to Korea for a year, then immediately to Iraq for a second tour. The 503rd saw some of the worst combat of the war, losing a man or more a week during their year in Fallujah/Ramadi. I started journaling and writing poetry as a way to ‘talk’ to my son, as communication was sporadic. At that time, soldiers had to stand in line, sometimes for hours, to call home. I woke up each morning wondering if my son was alive. It was poetry, finding those few precious words to explain my fear and analyze my faith that kept me grounded, got me through.”


Kari Gunter-Seymour is the guest on episode #48 of the Rattlecast. Click here to watch!

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