read a poem Archives - Page 3 of 7 - ⚡️Kristen Kalp

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The Personal and the Political

In this episode of That’s What She Said, we talk about making art when assholes are in power, bridging the gap between ‘professional’ and political, using versus spending your privilege, and the fine art of channeling fury into fuel.

“…this is your life and you can’t put it on hold because assholes are in power. Assholes, after all, have always been in power.” — Beth Pickens, Your Art Will Save Your Life

When I get fired up, I write poems. This is the one that come out today.

Dear Casey,

I’m sorry this is how you’ll turn 18,
with a man who brags about grabbing pussy
as President.

I’m sorry the adults in the room haven’t managed
to topple the systems of oppression
we were born supporting.

I’m sorry for your trans friends who are being
quite literally eliminated today, as if they never existed,
as if they can be erased as easily as a penciled-in promise.

I’m sorry we haven’t figured out
how to make ‘invisible’ labor visible
or overcome capitalism in order to save the planet.

I’m sorry your children will drown in plastic
and possibly fascism. I’m sorry we couldn’t.


P.S. Joy is an act of resistance.

Note to Self. (For the overachievers, strivers, and get-shiz-done-ers.)

You do not have to earn your keep
by cleaning the house and making the meals
and penning witty e-mails to keep everyone entertained
while feeding yourself a steady diet of shitty television.

You do not have to earn your keep.
You do not have to earn your keep.
You do not have to earn your keep.

The gift is the breath, is being alive, is standing at the shores of yourself
and plunging further in than ever before.

It’s not dramatic at first glance but it IS
a matter of life and death.

You’re alive, so act like it.

Watch the dogs and roll around with them.
Follow small children and let them teach you.
Gather treasures while you move through the streets.
Leave them behind for others to find.

Put down your striving and your need to be always, always working harder.
Put down your productivity.

Stop holding your ‘special’ nature up as a reason for avoiding connection.

Stop being afraid. People can hurt you, of course,
but they’re also the only ones who can love you to life.
You cannot survive without them. (You’ve tried.)

Stop breathing from your chest.
Sink in, let the oxygen run deep and wild within you.

Let the whole of your swift, soft body move each day,
and let that delight be something you refuse to track or monitor
for the sake of progress.

In fact: stop thinking of all this living as progress.
This moment simply is.

There is no mountain worth climbing if you refuse to pay attention during the ascent.
There is no meadow worth lying in if you count time spent there against your life’s value and achievements.

Rest and relax and laugh. And then.

Let the work you do be a manifestation of who you are; let it sink softly
to the bottom of the lake, knowing it will transform into something much more interesting
in the dark, unknowable night.

P.S. Of course we deserve it.


You’re worthy of your desires.

You deserve the warm embrace of joy and laughter wherever you find it.

Your whole body longs for the ocean because you deserve the ocean, and you ache to travel because you deserve to see new things and experience new places and new people and soak in the mystery of being alive.

You cannot earn a summer day.

You cannot work your way to being worthy of stillness and quiet. You will never, ever deserve to browse that bookstore in Paris in the late afternoon.

Not because you need to try harder, but because those things are already available to you — right now — and they are not matters of worthiness but of embracing your humanity.

The soft wind, the beating heart, the smell of books on the second floor. You don’t have to earn a single one.

Your commitment to your work, your family, your interiors, your depths, and/or your waistline will not pay dividends of worthiness.

You’re already worthy.

You’re invited to the party, and your invitation is the sun shining and the wind blowing and the neighborhood kids gathering their towels for another long day of swimming and hoping the ice cream truck makes a stop on the sidewalk before bedtime.

You’re worthy.


You’re worthy,

you’re worthy,

you’re worthy.


You deserve to be here. You deserve to be alive. You deserve to do the divine dance of living on this planet.

You deserve joy and wonder and delight not because you’ve put in your time or earned your points or have sheer-undiluted-slog currency to trade in for something better.

You deserve the best of life simply because you’re breathing, and you’re allowed to keep breathing by the grace of we-know-not-what for another day.

You’re allowed to take up space.

You’re allowed to want more.

You’re allowed to let life be simpler and fuller and richer than you can possibly imagine.

You’re allowed.

Period, full stop, end of story.

You’re allowed.

P.S. Ever think you don’t deserve it?


When they go — and they’ll go
Soon, I’m told — it is the strawberries I’ll remember.
Half-mown field, crooked patch, unwashed fruit
Tasting partly of earth. Part warmth. Part
Grandfatherly hand offering his best
To one girl he didn’t know how to love.
Sweating, silent, we cross the back porch and
He hands them to the other one–no longer so young–
Sixty years and not a word more between them.
I stood beside her, then, light filtering in dusty swirls
Through the kitchen window. It was a process,
The way her hands dripped with juice as she cut off
Their heads and sliced them in two, crafting a cold metal bowl
Of sugar and red despite the heat. She never stopped bitching
About his picking the unripe ones, as if this continued to be
The insufferable thing about marriage. And she never
Moved the trash can closer, just kept firing sea green fruit
In its direction for the duration of those gathering days.
Sometimes he stayed in the garden to avoid this messy crossfire;
Sometimes I stole away to nap near him in the next room
While Grandma stood, face to the sun,
Her hands dripping something much brighter than blood.

P.S. This poem appears in All the Selves I Used to Be, which contains 69 of my poems. Pick it up in paperback or in digital form!

The Domestic

I come from a family of butchers,
Blood soaking through the second kiss before dinner.
I feel them poor
Sometimes, boarding a sea-faring bathtub
With pockets of cheese and worthless coins and
Toys to tide the children over, week by week.

I feel them arrive, settle
— And those women, thick bones
Harnessing even the Pennsylvania sun —
Daughters with no secret corners of grace.
They beat rugs, drive horses, plow, cook, mend,
Fuck with abandon.
These women my ancestors
Know nothing of PMS, estrogen, excuses,
The word ‘demure.’ None of it
But hungry men, barking children,
Babies practicing their fists
In the amniotic slosh.

Here there is no room for nostalgia
Or scraped knees, only the land.
Meat, growth, winter, birth.
Survival, gravestones, a stocked cabinet;
The occasional Sears Roebuck catalog
And kneeling without prayer.

P.S. This poem appears in All the Selves I Used to Be, which contains 69 of my poems. Pick it up in paperback or in digital form!