Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What It Is

What It Is

Mornings, at the bus stop,
This one stands scraggly haired, and apart.
Solitary, sour at seven a.m.,

And I think, why not?
Poor thing, you're an American teen
Who has everything.

I'd like to hook my fingers
Through the holes in your jeans,
And plop you down in Kenya,

Where Awiti, just your age, sends one child
To the school that cannot meet
When it rains.

Or we could go to some war-torn land,
Or Haiti's slums...
But really, baby,

Everything is relative.
It is what it is, you stoically say,
Enduring your four bedroom life.

Your hundred dollar jeans
Are as full of misery
As the dust that settles

On the back of the boney cow
Herded through the dirt
By an African child.


  1. Beautifully done Karen, you put on me on 'psuse' this morning. Could have been so obviously done, but your shades are so subtle. The 'But really, baby' is a line that sparks. Loved it!

  2. Karen before you could plop him surly and with attitude in the Kenyan drought belt you'd have to get those pants over his ass. It IS what it is but and don't ask me why because I see the same crap attitude in a lot of teen kids but I also work weekly with Kindergarteners and 1st graders all from my slum. I have great hope for them. poor and getting poorer and having the governor of MI trying to find a way to chop another $2000 per child from education down to $5000 per kid (of course his kids go to $20,000 per student per year high school) so they will fail and he can start some more charter schools to line his buddies pockets who will pay for him to have a 2nd term.

    BUT my 5 kids are happy and more importantly they are learning and coming up to speed by loving now to love to learn. They will read Tolstoy by 3rd grade if i have anything to do with it! Well Dickens at least.

    I'm not ready to give up on the teens yet, when they give up on themselves I'll consider it. My friend in Kenya grew up on dirt floors and she just graduated college with her degree in international relations and literature. She is bad ass and a Kenyan slam champion.

  3. I love this Karen! And you know it's something I could stand to hear myself. "First world problems" is an over-used phrase, but there's a reason for that...

  4. This poem hits me straight in the heart. I see it all the time, the disdaining of privilege and opportunity among so many of the disaffected young on this side of the world, the drive, hopes, dreams, aspirations and striving of those on the other side, who would give anything just to go to school. I LOVE this poem!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Karen, would you please email me at Thanks, kiddo.

  6. Very moving, and beautifully rendered.