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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs; All the Dishes; The House

By: Karen S. Henry

Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs

Mardi Gras’s Folly

riding in a giant champagne glass

at the top of a float

with a mace of gilded cow bladders

banging against the rim

to chase away bad times --

this is our favorite episode.

She’s home from exile in the city,

shows me videos,

trying to matter.

Deadliest Catch

with Sig steaming out of Dutch Harbor,

and Alaska, Last Frontier

with the Kilters and Jewel

where homemade Christmas presents

involve dynamiting out a lake.

This slurry of disease and division.

How do we take hold?

All the Dishes

Oliver, the rabbit, was back in the house.

I had forgotten about him.

I searched for his bowl

and found Belleek -- too fine

then I saw broken glass at the bottom.

In search of another,

I found small vases

filled with drying plants.

Reaching in a cabinet

out spilled glass prisms


all the dishes

ready to fall.

The House

I’m up to my thighs

in snow

no boots --

legs and feet are bare.

I shuffle through.

A house under construction

offers a shortcut.

I wander through the rooms

all broken down.

The architect is in the house

explaining the reconstruction

I want to avoid.

Suddenly, I’m behind the front door --

I realize that soon

I won’t be able to go through anymore

my house, my life,

won’t be open to me.

It will be repaired without me.


Karen S. Henry collaborated with director Herbert Blau and Kraken in creating and performing Elsinore, based on Hamlet, and Crooked Eclipses, based on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Henry co-founded the Boston Theater Group, whose major works (supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Arts Council, and the New England Foundation for the Arts), include The Burrow, based on Kafka’s story; Metamorphoses, a reflection on Ovid; The Beloved: The Story of Ruth; and The Long Light: Voices of Aging. The Beloved and The Long Light toured throughout Massachusetts. Henry currently works with Row Twelve Contemporary Music Ensemble, with which she has created scores of poetry/music pieces. For the operas The Cell and Ascona, Henry served as librettist with composer W. Newell Hendricks. They received two fellowships from the NEA for these works. Her poems have appeared in Crosswinds, Boomer Lit Mag, Night Spirits (forthcoming), Stoneboat, and The Literary Whip Podcast of the Zoetic Press. Henry attended the Colrain poetry conference in January 2022, and her chapbook, All Will Fall Away, was published in 2020 by Finishing Line Press.

"Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs

My daughter had just moved out for the first time in March of 2020 – on the eve of the pandemic that ended her restaurant job and left her alone with her pet rabbit, Oliver, for the first months of that awful time. When she finally felt she could return home for brief visits, she wanted me to watch all her favorite shows with her. So, we did – seeking escape from the virus, knowing there was a more dangerous social illness brewing.

All the Dishes

This poem is one of a series I call Instagram dream poems, distilled from actual dreams but chiseled into shape as a poem. I have been recording dreams for over a decade. When I find images that seem to signal beyond my personal experience, I work with them until I feel I have arrived at a poem that will resonate with the deepest experiences of others.

The House

A house is a recurring image in my dreams – sometimes it is a magical estate – magnificent but unfinished – with room after room opening off winding corridors. I gradually realized that the dream estate is my life as it is unfolding. In this most recent house dream, however, the house is under construction, and I don’t want to stay in it.

After my 93-year-old mother-in-law had a tragic fall, breaking the bones in her chest and spine, she decided it was her time. She wanted to come home to die (she lived with us). I associated the broken-down house with her injured body. She is the one who does not want to live any longer in the house that will be repaired without her."


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