Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Contributor Biography

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Virginia Poet Laureate from 2006—2008. She holds a B.A. from the University of Mary Washington and M.Ed., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from George Mason University, where she received the university's first doctorate, an Outstanding Academic Achievement and Service Award, and a Letter of Recognition for Quality Research from Virginia Educational Research Association for her dissertation, Gathering Light: A Poet’s Approach to Poetry Analysis. In 2007 both universities gave her the Alumna of the Year Award. She has co-edited three anthologies, co-authored a poem-play, and published nine books of poetry, including The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, winner of the international Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award. She has received five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and has won the Ellen Anderson Award, multiple first place awards from the Chesapeake Bay Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, a resolution of appreciation from the Virginia Board of Education for her service as poet laureate, an Edgar Allan Poe Poetry Award, six Pushcart Prize nominations, as well as other awards. Her poems are featured in two permanent art installations as part of the Washington Metropolitan Area Authority, Art in Transit.

The Southern Cross

I.

As a child, I covered a tree

with stars blinding everyone

with their sparkle. On top

hung the Southern Cross plucked

from the sky. For years, I

kept the timepiece alive

by letting it burn in my mind.

Every night I saw the Christmas

pine feed on silver light.

II.

 

Tonight the stars of the Cross

shine over the Sacred Valley.

Etched out of satin darkness,

they rival the rugged Andes.

The timepiece is mine, an amulet

of jewels, I think as the Cross

tips and pours its liquid

over my shoulders, this 

thriving sancte crucis.

III.

 

How imperfect this winter scene.

Midnight, I search my home sky

for the perfect light, long

for the brightness tilting

like a kite over slopes.

Someone should set the stars adrift,

send them north on the Centaur’s

back. I wait for them, my face

pressed against a cold pane.
 

IV.

With eyes shut, I feel

the heat of the stars:

hot stones in my hand.

I position them

into a cross, fling them

beneath Cygnus to make

a pair in northern skies.

Their radiance falls,

nourishing the earth.

The Colors of Chartres Cathedral

Early morning near the Washington Monument

I let go of winter, daffodils, tulips,

cherry blossoms helping me forget

 

winds and snow. Another spring comes back

to me: steepled vessel floating in haze,

sky its sea, a patchwork of half-timbered

 

and gabled houses anchored at its feet.

I recall climbing winding streets

to the cathedral where I saw the fabled

 

windows, blues silken like the sky’s gleam

through blown glass. Reds more regal

than glinting rubies. Golds flaxen

 

as blazing wheat. Greens neither olive

nor moss but verdant as though the artist

ground fresh leaves into a fine paste

 

before adding them to glass cut in sun’s 

sparkle and flare. Each time fire claimed

the Holy House, the people rebuilt it,

 

the stained-glass removed in wartime

so the windows could catch sun forever

and reflect the wonder of color wed

 

to light: the North Rose, squares

revolving in place, and in darkness,

angels and doves spinning around

 

the Virgin like bursts of wind.

As I hurry toward the cathedral’s

steeple turning back into the Monument,

 

spring overtakes me, great yellow, orange,

cherry, and if once a year is not enough,

memory will awake: it will, it will.

Mother

I fear night

until I find

moon.

After dark, she scoops me

up into her 

brightness

where I wander

among spirits

let loose

from the heavens: my mother,

thirty years

dead,

visits me often.

Sometimes I see her

running free

through luminous fields. 

Once from a cloud’s

savannah

she tamed a thunderbolt’s

whiplike snap 

at my feet.

Tonight moon dips

into Sagrada Familia,

Notre Dame,

into all of the world’s churches.

Mother alights in the sanctum

of my heart.

Here, she teaches me

about stone’s durability,

what it means

to outlast illness,

how to take

the years

I’ve been given and to fling

them into air

so they multiply,

so they ring through darkness.

I gather up

her words,

then retreat to my study.

In the picture of us

on the wall,

I am a child, kneeling

at her feet,

listening.

For a Franciscan Brother

So you want to take your life—

three parallel slashes, three

you said, one for you, your spirit,

and the Holy Father.

 

I remember months ago

you knelt in the Friary, vowed

to follow a life of chastity, poverty,

and humility. After the proclamation

a woman, moved by ceremony, honored

you with a replica of St. Francis.

You raised the wooden carving

so high that light from a stained-

glass enlivened the deep-set eyes

that seemed to plead for obedience.

 

My mind whirls back

to the ‘70s, you in the hospital

again and again, your disease cold

and relentless, pursuing you

even in remission.

 

This morning

you knelt by the bed to pray

for nourishment, your white gown

a thin shadow of yourself.

Outside, rain soaked the clothes-

line where a stiff breeze swallowed

a shirt and slacks, spun

them into spirited angels.

 

Tonight in a vision

I see you in a crowd of lepers,

epileptics, children extending

their arms to a religious: you,

in a Brother’s habit, move

to the circle’s center

like a proud animal. In full

light you shower their hearts

with prayers. The scene

dissolves into a solitary figure

preaching to birds.

Leaning over a sink,

I douse my cheeks and brow

with water before entering

the studio where I throw

lights onto a half-finished

statue. I encircle the piece

with my palms, carry it

to the work table, let

my fingers stroke the dark

robe, a thin rope coiled

around a delicate waist.

 

As I work, I remember

a basilica on Mount Subasio,

dozens of larks flocking

about the feet of a sculpted man

so proud he lifted his eyes

past the grayed and graying

roofs of Assisi into sky

close enough to touch.

 

Moving toward the table,

I breathe air into the figure.

Though the broken frame

starts to crumble, I steady

my hands and repair remnants

of a condemned body, then return

the sculpture to its resting place

among a gallery of characters.

 

Half-asleep,

I watch the other figures

come alive, hoist the Brother

to their shoulders where he

breaks off a piece of sky,

consumes it and spirals

into the clouds, stars,

into white light

where someone told him

he would find a cure.

Author's Note:

“The Southern Cross” first appeared in Hispanic Culture Review, and was reprinted in the author’s book, Gathering Light (SCOP Publications, Inc., ©1993).

“The Colors of Chartres Cathedral” appears in the author’s book, Gathering Light (SCOP Publications, Inc., ©1993) under the title “The Colors of Chartres.”

“Mother” first appeared in the author’s book, Death Comes Riding (SCOP Publications, Inc., ©1999), and was anthologized in After Shocks, edited by Tom Lombardo (Sante Lucia Books, Atlanta, Georgia, ©2008). The poem was reprinted in These Flecks of Color: New and Selected Poems (San Francisco Bay Press, ©2018).

“For a Franciscan Brother” is published in the author’s book, Contrary Visions (Scripta Humanistica, ©1988).

Jane Zwart

Contributor Biography

Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.

Our Lady of Sorrow’s Spaghetti Dinner

One slipped apostrophe: that is all it takes 

to task the mother of God with chores too minor 

for her; suddenly, nursing a single sorrow, 

she ends up churning an anomalous urn of pasta.

 

I know of other divine signs. Outside Newago

a farmer paints over last year’s letters

on a plywood board and posts it near the county road.  

Every June: Jesus Saves Fresh Vegetables.

 

A full stop would solve everything, of course,

but even a dash might let the sign tender what 

the man meant it to: grace, a carrot held out for free

alongside other, somewhat costlier carrots.

 

Then again, maybe there is a lesson here—that you must 

imagine the thing you cannot believe. Start 

by picturing a man canning orange roots, matching

Mason jars’ threaded lids, tin circles, rubber rings.

 

And make him Mexican so that at first you need 

only to trust that he is flesh: Jesús, who saves 

fresh vegetables, who eats his mother’s angel-hair pasta 

to ease her lone grief, who gardens but does not fly.