• Karen Mandell

Karen Mandell, one poem


Casting Off

Rose had taken to reusing paper plates.

She’d brush them off—a bit of grease didn’t matter.

Another cheese sandwich, chips over the stain.

She’d get three or four uses out of it. Why not?

She saved water, soap, and time.

Time she had precious little of these days.

She was nobody’s fool. She’d pared everything

down to the bare minimum. Better

she should throw out than let others

do it later. She was glad they brought her

to Hebrew Life, relieved to leave

her apartment. A kitchen, living room, bedroom,

she’d rattled around there like unlucky dice.

She wanted nothing from those dry rooms.

What was Karen thinking of, showing up

in this shared room with her tarnished tray,

the perfume bottles and framed pictures

scrabbling across the surface like mice.

Rose had meant to leave it behind.

Karen acted like it was a jeweled scepter,

so proud of herself, this daughter,

thinking she knew what her mother wanted.

Bring nuts and chocolate, things she still had time for.

She had no need for scent, and the faces of her mother and sister

were etched long ago behind her eyes.

Karen Mandell has been published in numerous literary journals including Fulcrum Annual, Lilith, Hogtown Creek Review, Small Spiral Notebook Print Anthology, Comstock Review, and Spire to name a few. She won the American Poetry Society/Oil of Olay contest and placed second in the Muriel Craft Bailey award, and the Charlotte Newberger award.

She has taught writing at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis and at Mount Ida College in Newton, MA. She has also taught literature at various senior centers in the Boston area.


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