Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

How to Make a Poem

by Karen Kenyon

Every element in your body is from a star.
Nova, PBS


Tear open your heart—like a giant purse
it will pour out memories
and yearnings,
keys to doors you will never open.

And you must read the others
who have also dipped into this world
even if in another language
of the soul.

Take your own broken pen
and scratch
their words
on trunks in forests.

Feel the pain of those in cities of hospitals,
or in shacks of cold wormwood,
Know they are you also.

Stir Shakespeare’s salt into your bitter tea.

how everything fits together,
though it’s a puzzle
you may wish to dissemble

Be alone in your solitude
so that a blue ink fills you,

Swim in sorrow’s sea,
develop gills
until you can rise.

Then rejoice
in the pink air,
the tangerine clouds,
the salmon floating in the sunset sky.

Know and cherish the one who may come
to share it with you
for a

And lament each one who leaves
here. And remember that
we must

raise our glasses,
empty of wine,
full of scattered
A poet has died today.


—Previously published in San Diego Free Press (22 April 2015); appears here with permissions from poet and publisher


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Karen Kenyon

is a writer and teacher who lives near La Jolla, California. Her poems have appeared in various small journals and in The Christian Science Monitor and Ladies’ Home Journal. She has won a Certificate of Merit from The Atlantic Monthly for her poetry. Her journalism (hundreds of feature and travel articles, interviews, profiles, essays, and OpEds) has appeared in British Heritage, Newsweek, Redbook, San Diego Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and other publications.

She is the author of four books of prose, and her book of selected poems is forthcoming. Published books include Writing by Heart, a course reader (University of California, San Diego); Charles Dickens: Compassion and Contradiction, which received an award of excellence from the San Diego Book Awards (Odyssey Press, 2016); The Brontë Family: Passionate Literary Geniuses, a Young Adult biography of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë which won Honorable Mention in the San Diego Book Awards (Lerner Publishing Group, 2003); and Sunshower, a memoir about the journey she and her son took through the grief of her young husband’s death (Richard Marek, G. P. Putnam Sons, New York; 1981).

Ms. Kenyon teaches writing at MiraCosta College; at the University of California, San Diego Extension; and through the Osher program at San Diego State University. She also runs private workshops, as well as workshops in libraries.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury