Poem of the Day, April 6: Wheelchairs That Kneel Down Like Elephants, Karen Fiser

“The poems of Karen Fiser astonish me with their honesty, alert wisdom, and exquisitely tender strength. She writes from a crucial place. I love the delicious startle of her images, the bravery of connections, the clear, sharp gaze…” -Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Yellow Glove, on Words Like Fate and Pain.

Karen Fiser earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Virginia, an M.F.A. from Mills College, and a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. After a first career as a philosophy professor, she began writing poems during the onset of a struggle with illness and disability. Her poems have appeared in seven anthologies and many journals. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Wheelchairs That Kneel Down Like Elephants

Last night I rode a tightrope
with my wheelchair. No net.
The night before, I left my body
on the steep ground with its pain.
I walked again by leaning,
elbows careless on the wind,
hitching myself along in light surprise.
Days I am heavy,
a clumsy bear on wheels,
bumping into things
and smiling, smiling. Nights
I invent new means of locomotion:
flying velocipedes, sailcars,
wheelchairs that kneel down
like elephants, carry me carefully
up the long stairs. Intricate
engines of need and night and air.

-Karen Fiser

(c) in the name of the poet or assigns. Used for educational purposes and for the promotion of the poet and personal growth of the reader.

Journal Prompt:

  • Write a poem about your dreams. What themes, metaphors, images occur and reoccur?
  • Write about the loss of some aspect of health. What is no longer available to you? How do you manage that loss?
  • Write anything that bubbles up in you from reading this poem. If it’s emotionally difficult, set the timer for 10 minutes. Take a break, read what you’ve written, and decide if you want to continue. If so, set the timer for another 10 minutes. Repeat.



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