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Beautiful hills of green
rise beyond the tranquil lake.

Unruffled nature spreading out
’til from our dream we awake.

Old loves lost, but found
again upon that shore.

A rose passes between lover’s hands
as in the days of yore.

Peace and harmony abound,
songs of morning doves around.

Oh Caledonia, will my heart
ever find that peaceful part?



 A Closet Artist


He told me I was bad. My adopted father said

no one would ever love me.

But I remember. I was very young

when he and I squished toes together

in the black goo of the minnow pond

Co-conspirators against mother’s disapproval.

No matter she was right. Polio still swam

in muddy waters then.

We wiggled our toes anyway.


He didn’t like my music. Kicked the TV playing

Don Giovanni as if Mozart were a mortal offense.

But sneaked in to my recitals. Sat in the back.

And why read so many books? My favorite joy.

A waste of time, he said. But in later years I found

a journal, poetry he wrote for mother, and writings about me

and drawings. Horses running. Lightning in the mountains.

Electricity and equine snorting nostrils. Emotions

from a closet artist in a country boy’s skin.


Now when I recall disapproving voices

in my ear, bad memories, I try to sense

the creative soul who may have lived

underneath that veneer. Disdain for artistic life

just an armor plate. Why hide away and not live

it out? He was Irish after all. Could have followed

Yeats and Joyce and what’s more dear to the heart

of an Irishman than his horse?

He should have been singing out loud.

Not stifling the songs of his heart and mine.




by Carolyn Donnell       (Illustration by Betty Auchard)


Willow Tree

Stop dragging your shirt-sleeves on the ground

and stand up straight and don’t slump.

You just stand there like a frump

swinging your arms, not raising them high,

like you’re supposed to do.

What’s the matter with you?


Why aren’t you wearing yellow and red?

This time of the year our colors are bold.

Your brothers and sisters do what they’re told,

Why can’t you act like the rest of us,

like you’re supposed to do?

What’s the matter with you?


We shortened you sleeves, but you put them back.

We even tried painting you red and brown

but you’re still green, making rustling sounds.

You have to be different from everyone else,

not like you’re supposed to do.

What’s the matter with you?


Why won’t you try to be like us?

Why do you always say you can’t?

No one will ever want you like that.

You will never have any friends,

like you’re supposed to do.

What’s the matter with you?


A woodsman walking the forest one day

spotted the strange looking crop.

Why, he asked, would someone chop

and hack a willow tree like this?

That’s not what they’re supposed to do.

I’d ask them, what’s the matter with you?


A willow? The little tree thought on the words.

Is that what I am? Not an oak?

It’s no wonder that I feel choked.

Why didn’t anyone tell me before?

That’s what they’re supposed to do.

Not say, what’s the matter with you.


I don’t know what a willow tree is.

There are no others like me around.

Where I came from might never be found.

But I can stop trying to be an oak.

That’s not what I’m supposed to be.

There is nothing the matter with me.



blue planet image

Holy Ground

This is Holy Ground,

You have desecrated

our Holy shrines.

Words said throughout the ages

 to excuse Mankind’s warring

and destructive ways.

But what is Holy Ground?

Where battles were fought,

or won or lost?

What is a holy shrine?

Where a person was born,

or lived, or died?

Is Holy Ground a man made thing?

Or is it forests, mountains

and teeming seas?

Look at the universe far and wide.

Where else can mankind live?

Nowhere we have found.

Our precious blue planet,

humanity’s only Holy Ground,

is all we have.

How much more death, war,

and destruction has to come

before we learn?

Will we reach out to one another,

to rescue, to preserve this,

our solitary refuge?

Or will we persist in slaughtering

people, animals, plants,

and lose the true Holy Ground?

We can preserve this rare and shining orb.

Or piece by piece destroy,

 our blue and living Earth.

Time grows shorter every hour.

Leaving us with less and less.

What will you do?




Figure 1 Drawing by Betty Auchard

Slavic Eyes

Her hair is blonde.

Her skin is fair.

Her sparkling eyes,

a sky blue pair.


Yes, she’s a Swede

you say. For sure,

or at the least

an English girl.


You think you’re right.

And most would be.

A closer look, though

and you’ll see.


Those eyes of hers,

they may be blue.

But that long shape,

West never knew.


It’s seen on faces

farther East,

Where broad and darker

are most cheeks.


So somewhere back

in this girl’s past,

there was a one

unlike her caste.


Her great, great gran,

or hers before,

had Slavic eyes come

through the door.



I sat upon a grassy hill, beneath a spreading oak

and watched as autumn sunlight turned green leaves to burnished gold.

A bubbling stream ran at my feet, its soothing sounds did flow.

The cool clean air did fill my lungs, refreshing flesh and soul.

A crackling in the brush did cause the reverie to end.

My eyes sought out the noise’s source and spied the russet skin.

The Lord of forest dark and deep did pause to view his realm.

He turned and contemplated me with head, imperial.

I gazed into his sable eyes and saw there first, myself.

He showed me hunters with their guns, defaming rock and rill.

I shed one tear, and as I stared into that regal orb,

I swear to you, I saw there too, a drop in his eye form.

And for one timeless moment two united in that wood.

Our minds, our hearts, our souls did blend. At last, I understood.

I heard a shot ring from the west. “Go, run the other way.”

I shouted, pointing to the east to try to aid escape.

But sportsmen had their way today. Mere contest was the goal.

Those antlers, just a prize to place for viewing on a wall.

I went to see that royal head, to pay my last respects.

For one brief instant, I did wish the hunter’s there instead.


Arms of the Angel

by Carolyn Donnell

Listen to Sarah McLachlan’s  Angel

In the arms of the angel

a line from a song

The hum of the music

rises to my tongue

whenever I see


bent ladies, wobbly

walkers crossing

at lights

insufficient time to catch the train

closed doors don’t wait, schedules to keep.

Guy in the wheelchair. Unwashed,feeble, maneuvering down

Main Street. To where?

Veteran of wars

sent to kill

returned home

to die untended.

Mothers with children

no home to keep.

Bankers’ golden balloon.

Others, no place to sleep.

Where are the families,

sons, daughters or friends?

Church and charity they say

but too often they pray,

“Thank you God, I’m not like them.”

Where is the angel for all of these?

Are angels that selective and few?

In the arms of the Angel

Do you have one?

Lucky you.


written 2009 after watching the homeless on North First in San Jose



If only

we could find

the wished for Balm of Gilead

the source of healing

flowing from the heart

of giving love.

Some say it’s church

the pope or cross

or fluttering white dove.

Others say go deep within

just breathe away

regrets of yesterday

or fears to come.

But looking at the world today

it seems that Gilead has fled

to some far flung stellar shore

and left us all alone.

If only.



It seems

this arm

has lost

its strength

to lift the





can reach the

proper place, where

strings meet with ebony to

 form melodic lines of grace.

Bow no longer strokes

the strings to flow


to my ears

and back into my

heart. My viola’s silenced

now, no more to merge, to

coalesce with others’ notes and

beats and breaths. They create

the music now and I cannot

participate in making

 sweet symphonic



Ode to Lost Songs

My heart




than arm


when feet


One minute whole

then next that fall

A loss not to be borne.

My longest love is gone

My never failing lover who sang

sonorous melodies in springtime

and too in winter’s gloom

I dream of you.

To hold you

once again

To have your wooden curves

Reverberate in resonance of bow

upon the strings. A melody that flowed

Like waves out upon the seas

Now ebbs away from me

Must I live on in pain

Without viola’s songs

to soothe my soul




(From listening to a Yo Yo Ma CD)


Long first beat

Short two and three

Cello singing


Starry night

Swaying trees


Moving together

Pathos and joy

Passion and pain




Worlds away


Down The Stairs

By Carolyn Donnell

California is beautiful they shout.

But you’re always outside looking in.

Or if you think about the hole where you live

It’s from the inside looking out.

You can’t own the land or even the room.

A few short years I’ve fallen down

From upper yuppie to trailer park,

down the stairs in one felled swoon.

Oops!  Can’t afford a trailer home.

What’s next now? Old folks home or the street?

I don’t know how I’m going to live.

Shopping cart here I come.


Before It’s Too Late

I wrote this little poem at an open mic recently. I haven’t had the nerve to post it though. A friend encouraged me to go ahead. So here it is.
has chance past
to join in joy bodies
that should have come
together years ago
cues missed
desires not admitted
much less committed
dare we risk rejection now
worse to bare to lovers eyes
bodies that may not even work
blind to sight if need be then
come together, touch
before it really is too late


I Am Blue

I am blue.

I am the indigo ocean,

buoying majestic whales

in my salty hands,

swaying kelp into

schools of silver fins.

I am blue.

I am the clear azure sky,

carrying eagle’s wings

where others dare not go.

Rainbows arch above

after the storm.

I am blue.

I am the turquoise lagoon.

White foam on my waves.

Here the dolphins play.

Bare feet leave imprints

on white sands

I am blue.

I am the sparkling bright shine

of a grandchild’s smiling eyes

looking into mine.

Wonder and love reside.

All things are new.


The Shostakovich 5th

Long winded


blasts of brass


to a climax

of thundering


continued swells

while frantic strings

scramble to ride

the waves



gathering force

full blown typhoon

a Russian heart

forced to comply

to dictator’s wish

on the surface

but undertow

secret flow

rises to wash

away the pain

telling tales

to the ear

one that knows

how to hear

I rise to cheer

and beg to heal

my broken arm

so I can sit again

and play viola

in the Shostakovich 5th.


Дмитрий Дмитриевич Шостакович

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogJFXqYEYd8     Bernstein NYPO, 1979




by Carolyn Donnell

My grandmother was a MacBride.

The son of Bride. See Bride. Gaelic. From Brighid, a hostage, pledge, or security. The son of Bridget. Cormac – Archbishop of Cashel – in his glossary, defines Brighid  as “fiery dart”, and says that it was the name of the Muse who was believed to preside over poetry, in pagan times, in Ireland.

This is dedicated to all of us. Some day I am going to paint the poem.


by Carolyn Donnell

I hear your sweet tales of family life

and think of ours with all its strife.

Does everyone else have a rosy past?

Or is it seen through a cloud or behind a mask?


Well, I’m sorry if my stories are sad.

If good guys don’t win or some outcomes are bad.

But that’s the truth, so what should I do

with our broken lives, the pieces askew?


I could sweep them all under a rug,

pretend they don’t exist or take a drug.

Or grovel on them ’til I’m black and blue.

I know a lot of people who do.


Or, I can gather the bits of glass

and make a mosaic of our pasts.

Find beauty somewhere in each cracked old vase.

And value. I think that choice is the best.


Ruby reds for those valiant hearts,

deflecting harm with fiery darts.

Rich emerald green for all of those

whose souls held on throughout nights of woes.


Brown, like the earth for all who stayed true.

Add shimmering shards of topaz blue.

The color of sky over our head

gives hope for life we won’t have to dread.


Please don’t forget yellow, not by half.

That light-hearted color reminds us to laugh.

To bind it together we use even black,

dark side, the color of tar or thatch.


With these pieces both broken and torn

we  come together and cause to form

a stained glass window so that all might find

beauty in even the least of light.


©April 2004 Revised Sept. 2005



I like to play Loreena McKinnett Mists of Avalon-The Mystic’s Dream when I read this.

Boudicca’s Daughters

A Tribute to Survival

I lay among the dead and dying.

Slaughter fell upon us all.

Extinction was the Roman’s hope.

Our tribe was to be ever gone


Our high priest stood on treeless hill.

There upon his shaven head

were magic tattoos swirling round,

seen in early morning mist.

He called to me with high pitched wail.

A sound that only I could hear.

The lightning flashed and I arose.

Alone, I stood and walked to him.

Soldiers stalked the bodies near,

stabbing those who still drew breath.

I walked unseen by steel and sword

and lived again to carry on.

Two thousand years have passed away.

The soldiers’ slaughter was for naught.

For still upon that moonlit moor,

to this day my daughters walk.



Just Enough of a Reminder

The road ends just behind

long rows of upper yuppie houses

cattle graze on hills so verdant green you’d swear

you were in Erin’s land instead of south San Jose

where still some fields grow ruby red fruit shocking

pink flowered cherries can be picked from the trees

mist like dragon’s breath from long lost Avalon

coats the mountainside sliding to valleys below

apricots then follow

popcorn blossoms

a few acres left

here and there

just enough

reminder of

what the valley

must have been

when it was full

orchards instead of

sprawling shoeboxes


6 Responses

  1. […] } More Loreena McKinnett.  I like to read my poem, Boudicca’s Daughters, to the beginning refrains of this. (See my poetry […]

  2. The two together are magical!


  3. These are really good poems Carolyn.
    I love the line ‘upper yuppie houses’.

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