By Jen Karetnick:


It seems to fall to men to create
disasters and women to mop up after.

The first thing people have to forget

is their sense of the senatorial

desk, the deep leather armchair.

There’s always
somebody screaming

off stage or window-shopping for the ridiculous,
arm in arm. Sooner or later these moments come.

We have seen this happen and cannot refrain.


They bloomed too soon, pistils coral,
hung green like left-behind seawater
well into the sodden fall, ripened
into a bilirubinous yellow.

Falling, they broke themselves
open into Cyrillic letters on the unearthed
limestone as if they were envelopes
stuffed too full of possibilities.

Now marked only with a flag of memory,
this is where we buried the bits
of flesh snipped as easily as a stem
from an eight-day-old son, disguising

the dreams that in the wrong hands
could have been so readily rewritten.


Oh, the darkness of it all—black cat, black dog,
black monkey on the black-eyed woman’s shoulder,

rocking on a boat dock over water so absent of light
even our dreams have lost their shadows. In this house

made of books and planks, under the art of thatch
and weave, we are birds nesting together who have closed

our throats to song. This is where, without definition, we pin
the horizon as the center on a map of our always new world.

Today’s poems are from The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Jen Karetnick, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

The Treasures That Prevail is about climate change and its effects on Miami; the poems in this collection confront the ills of modern society in general, mourn both public and personal losses, and predict the difficulties of a post-modern life in a flooded, Atlantis-like lost city. The narrators are two unnamed women, married with a teenage daughter and a teenage son, who live in a part of Miami that will be underwater unless action is taken. The Treasures That Prevail is a parable about what could happen to any of our low-lying coastal cities if we don’t start to make changes now.

Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2016)–which was a long-list finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press–and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016). She received an MFA in poetry from University of California, Irvine and an MFA in fiction from University of Miami. Her poetry, prose, playwriting and interviews have appeared recently or are forthcoming in, The Evansville Review, Foreword Reviews, Guernica, The McNeese Review, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Waxwing and Verse Daily. She is co-director for the reading series, SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami). Jen works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance writer, dining critic and cookbook author. She lives in Miami Shores on the remaining acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, three cats and fourteen mango trees.

Editor’s Note: How fearfully prescient this collection has proven to be as California is burning, as large swathes of the world are recovering from hurricanes and earthquakes, as Harvey Weinstein has been outed as a sexual predator, as man after man shows us what it really mean to be “senatorial” in his “deep leather armchair,” as the world is melting and our future threatens to emerge underwater.

With The Treasures That Prevail Jen Karetnick has penned a collection that is beautiful and terrifying, that is lyric and devastating, that rings of Cassandra in the ways its truths fall upon deaf, ignorant, or apathetic ears. The language within these pages is thick and malleable, painting with words a picture that you might cut back with a machete in a valiant effort to combat the vengeful wrath of a raped and battered Mother Earth. For even the best among us — in the age of capitalism and consumerism and selfish, self-destructive climate change — are but “birds nesting together who have closed // our throats to song.”

Want more from Jen Karetnick?
Buy The Treasures That Prevail from Amazon
Jen Karetnick’s Writing Portfolio
Buy American Sentencing from Amazon


"Arab Motherhood" by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.

“Arab Motherhood” by Georges Sabbagh, c. 1920. Public domain image.

Editor’s Note: In honor of Mother’s Day, I have gathered together some of my favorite poems that I’ve featured on this series over the years that consider motherhood from a plethora of perspectives, for motherhood is such a multi-faceted experience. From the perspective of the child: memories of mothers, good mothers, bad mothers, absent mothers, mothers we have lost. From the perspective of the mother, of the would-be-mother, of the once-was mother: pregnancy and childbirth, love and fear of and for our children, the kind of mother we are or are not, the kind of mother we want to be, the children we never had, the children we have lost.

Today’s selection is in honor of motherhood itself and its many faces, in honor of that imperative person without whom none of us would exist and who–for better or worse–so deeply affects who we come to be.

Today’s post is dedicated to my own mother, who has always been one of my most dedicated readers and faithful supporters, who has shaped my being from zygote through womanhood, and whose legacy as mother takes on its newest incarnation on this, my first Mother’s Day as a mother.

Mother, I’m trying
to write
a poem to you

which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I’ve wanted
to say, Mother
…but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them.

–Erin Belieu,
“Another Poem for Mothers”


“Elegy for a Mother, Still Living” by Elana Bell

“Cultiver Son Potager / Growing Vegetables” by Dara Barnat; translated by Sabine Huynh

“Prayers Like Shoes” by Ruth Forman

“We Speak of August” by Valentina Gnup

State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies by Alexis Rhone Fancher

“A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children” by Chanel Brenner

“Baby” by Jaimie Gusman

“Psalm to Be Read While My Daughter Considers Mary” by Nicole Rollender

Hemisphere by Ellen Hagan

“Labor Pantoum” by Leslie Contreras Schwartz

“Depression” by Terri Kirby Erickson

“Dinner for the Dying” by Jen Lambert

Decency by Marcela Sulak

Little Spells by Jennifer K. Sweeney

“The Invention of Amniocentesis” by Jen Karetnick

“The Sadness of Young Mothers” by Richard D’Abate

“Mom’s Cocks” by Jenna Le

“The Balance” by Danusha Laméris

“The Committee Weighs In” by Andrea Cohen

“Mother-In-Law” by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell

“Change of Address” by Ruth Deborah Rey

Want to read more Mother’s Day poems?
Mother’s Day poetry from the Academy of American Poets
Poetry about mothers from the Academy of American Poets


Jen Karetnick Head Shot

By Jen Karetnick:


phone calls from patients, their parents or partners,
repeating what he has already said half-a-dozen times

in the office—“I know the auras are uncomfortable,
but they’re better than grand mal seizures, and that’s

what the meds will help to prevent”— and dispensing
predictions no one wants to hear—“No, I don’t think

he’ll come home; the stroke was catastrophic”—but
are asked for over and over in the hopes they will change,

while I shush the kids in the backseat, stop them from shouting
with too much apparent joy in their voices, keep the radio

playing Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” turned down. Soon
we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter

herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin
of faith. We will recite the plagues: boils, murrain,

the lice we have been visited by several times this year.
On this night, we will open the door for a rogue spirit

who might drink our wine but not heal vertigo; on this night
we will recline on a pillow that can’t fuse a broken

spine. On this night, the cell phone chirps and sings,
and there are no miracles beyond what can be doctored.


Mother, in your womb I am an experiment.
You pass on not immunity but its silvery underside,
give permission for the needle like an arrow to
birth holes in this temporary home, sip the fluid
like a taster of fine wines without the benefit of
a visible image. No bigger than a black widow
spider, the doctors must guess where I am,
and agree there is nothing to be done.
I am poison to both of us. Unsafe
harbor, you insist on mooring me to
your designated slip, tossed by rash after
rash of storms. I will remove myself early. Still ill,
of course you will not care for me right away. Of all the
eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.


Stamina. From the Latin stamen,
meaning thread of woven cloth. Plant parts
resemble the warp and woof, but old farts?
The boost was designed for the impotent,
not the young at heart. They can’t afford
to see the blue of detached retinas
when the sky has already claimed those hues
and the days for viewing them are numbered.
How ‘bout a pill to make them remember
to take out the garbage or mow the lawn?
One to defoliate the nose hairs grown?
Or better: to spark conversational vigor.
No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on.
This is the last thing, the last thing we want.

“On the Way to Seder, My Husband Answers” was previously published in The Healing Muse. Today’s poems are from the forthcoming collection American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing), and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Jen Karetnick is the author/co-author/editor of 14 books, two of them forthcoming: American Sentencing (poetry, Winter Goose Publishing) and The Treasures That Prevail (poetry, Whitepoint Press). In addition to poetry, she writes lifestyle books, the most recent of which is the cookbook Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014). Her poems, prose and playwriting have been widely published in literary and commercial outlets including, Cimarron Review, december, Miami Herald, North American Review, Poet’s Market 2013, Poets & Writers,, River Styx, Spillway,, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Based in Miami with her husband, two teenagers, various rescue pets and 14 mango trees, she works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine.

Editor’s Note: Jen Karetnick expertly catalogues the vast and startling spectrum of life, from the mundane to the monumental, from humor to horror. Amidst the stories that unfold are stunning and heartbreaking moments of lyric: “Soon we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter // herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin / of faith;” “Of all the / eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.” And that beauty is balanced by the hilarious and the absurd. Of viagra, a group of women posit, “How ‘bout a pill to make them remember / to take out the garbage or mow the lawn? / One to defoliate the nose hairs grown? / Or better: to spark conversational vigor. / No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on. / This is the last thing, the last thing we want.”

Want more from Jen Karetnick?
Read poems from Brie Season
Buy Brie Season on Amazon
Buy Prayer of Confession from Finishing Line Press
Buy Landscaping for Wildlife from Big Wonderful Press
Read more of Jen Karetnick’s poems and prose