Finding Beauty in Dark Moments ...


Poetry has that beauty of language and strong use of metaphor and symbolism that perfectly matches the power of art and art therapy. Combining the two - using a drawing or painting as inspiration for a poem, moviing from image to word [or vice versa] - strengthens the meaning we make for ourselves and highlights the connection between our internal and  external worlds.

My poems take me back to the time and place and emotional space of their writing. They are like resting places on the road through my life. They enable me to capture moments in time that would otherwise escape me entirely, unremembered, unremarkable. 

'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' is one of my favourite books. And it was the beauty of the title alone and all that's captured in those few words that lead me to read the book in the first place. Remarkable things happen in all our lives all the time. The definition of remarkable is 'worthy of attention, striking'. Our lives are worthy of our attention. And if we give our lives the attention they're due, we may come to realise how striking they are. 

Index of Poems:

A Woman and Two Candles

And She Kept Saying Goodbye


Drawing a Life

For God, King and Country 

From the Shadow Lake 

Good Catholic Girls

Hardening of the Hearteries 

I Have Seen People Create 

I Painted the Sky Last Night 

Just Because 

Love's Emissary 

My New Garden 


Spring Poem 

Swallows in Spain 

Thank You, Sylvia Plath 

The Pheromone of Love Meets the Scent of Sex

The Train of Thought and the Stream of Consciousness 

The Woman Called God 

Where I Live 

Woman of Dreams

Woman of Dreams.

There once was a woman,

  from a far away place, 


  from a time long ago,


  who dreamt herself old with dreams of regret,


  dreamt herself a figure of ice with dreams of fear,


  dreamt herself a statue of stone with dreams of hate


  and dreamt herself dead with dreams of lost love.


There once was a woman,


not in a far away place,


nor from a time long ago,


who dreamt herself young with dreams of love,


dreamt herself bold with dreams of possibilities,


dreamt herself whole with dreams of children


and dreamt herself alive with dreams of adventure.

There once was a woman,


who was both you and both me,


she dreamt wild dreams,


impossible dreams, unlikely dreams,


silly, crazy, mad dreams.

And she wove them all together,


with fine thread and long string,


with bright coloured ribbon,


with wishes, with prayers,


with words and with song.

She dreamt all her dreams,


she watched them all grow,


played with them like kittens,


stroked them like small puppies,


sang to them like baby birds,


and fed them like children.

She planted her dreams,


nurtured her dreams, 


moulded and sculpted and carved her dreams,


out of the bare rock of existence,


the warm earth of her life,


the force of her soul


and the love from her heart.

This woman -


this dreamer of dreams,


who is both you and both me,


she dreamt her dreams


... and she moved softly towards them.

Copyright:          Karen Adler, 1998

I Have Seen People Create.

I have seen people create 

Joy out of Sorrow …

A beautiful young man, 

quite unaware of his magnificence, 

who created dance and unity 

and a brief moment of delight in a busy city. 

He created joy for others 

from his own sorrow for his brother 

who died only 3 weeks after being diagnosed 

with leukaemia.

I have seen people create 

Beauty out of Anger …

A young woman, 

both loving  and hating

her alcoholic father. 

She creates for the world a vision 

of a wedding veil, 

white and voluminous 

and full of promise. 

Hooked and snagged and caught in the veil 

are tiny fishing lures, pretty and feathered 

and full of colour 

to represent the allure of the feminine.

I have seen people create 

sweet nectar from their tears,

find prisms of light and colour

in the depths of their sadness, 

in the shadows of their fear.

I have seen the most unlikely materials

made into Moments of Bright Life.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2009.

A Woman and Two Candles.

And herein lies a tale 

that waits to be told, 

that needs to be told,


that asks to be told



Of a woman and two candles - 


One burning brightly while the other grows cold.


A step into the future.


Poised on the cliff,


The past floats around her,


Silent voices of the dead and the gone,


Refusing to die,


refusing to live whole,


unable to let go,


unable to move on.



Fear builds upon fear,


The future is both far and both near 


but the present is here.



Paper tigers dance


And look at her askance.

What is a future, 


without a past?


they ask.


What is now - 


without you, 


without thou?

She lights the cold candle -


The past comes alive.


Its flame flickers bright -


Paper tigers recede


into the night.



She changes one for the other -


The past for the future, 


the future for the past.



Both blend together,


both will grow cold


as she will grow old.



No candle for the present.



It burns as she writes


in the night


by the light


Of the candle of the past


and the candle of the future


and the pen of the present.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2000

And She Kept Saying Goodbye.

And she kept saying goodbye 

before it was really time,


before anyone had actually left,


because she had one foot out the door herself,


ready to leave before she was left,


ready to brush away the dust of footprints


of those who may be leaving,


who may be on their way,


before she herself was on her way,


as she said goodbye 


before it was really time,


before anyone had actually left.

Copyright: Karen Adler, February 2000

Drawing  a  Life.

And she drew by candlelight,

Sketching by the light of a flame -


Dark strokes, light strokes,


shading and toning.



She drew herself a life,


Sketched unto herself a life,


A life of light,


of lightness,


Shining out of the dark.


Copyrigh: Karen Adler, February 2000

Love's Emissary.

I never thought that love would send an emissary – 

like he’d been secluded up in the mountains for the last ten years

wondering how to woo me back.


I never thought that love could have a sense of humour


and that maybe he’d missed me,


that maybe he looked back fondly on my antics when I loved.


When I was in love,


I was like a puppy mad with joy,


Leaping and cavorting and rolling on its back with glee.



I never considered that years later,


the memory of love’s emissary


would bring a warm, happy smile to my lips


and laughter to my soul.



I never dreamed 


that I could ever possibly forgive love,


that I would welcome the emissary - 


at first,


tentatively, warily,


like a shy fawn in the forest at dawn.


He showed me many models,


all kinds of designs from Baroque to Bohemian,


from Zanzibar to Zen.



The one I chose was you.


Copyright: Karen Adler, October, 1998  


The harsh cry of a single crow 

cracks the stillness of early morning,


signalling the day to emerge


from its dark cocoon.


Other sounds follow on 


and the world erupts into being,


full of noise and movement, 


light and life.


I prefer the stillness, 


the blackness of the night.


It is then that I travel 


the pathways of my dreams,


daylight only serves to remind 


that those dreams aren’t real.



Or are they? I wonder 


as I see the crow swooping above,


black wings glistening in sunlight.



A broken fragment of last night’s dream


slices its way through the thin veil 


separating night and day:


A black shadow figure, 


flying high and crying harshly,


followed me through my dreams last night.



Trailing a filmy length of snow white gauze, 


like a cloud wisp snatched from the sky,


the shadow guided my footsteps,


signalling where and when to stop.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 1997

Thank You, Sylvia Plath.

Oh, i'm a bored housewife, oh,

with nothing better to do with my time, oh,


than clean my little nest, oh,


and wait for the phone to ring, oh,


and i stare into space a lot, oh,


and wonder about my future, oh,


and let go of my past, oh,


and i breathe very deeply, oh,


when i remember to, oh,


and i wander around in a daze, oh,


days and days and days of daze, oh,


and my mind goes to mush, oh,


and my body is fit for the trash, oh,


and i'm a defeated little soul, oh,


but for some strange reason, oh,


i'm a happy little soul, oh,


and my windows sparkle and gleam, oh,


and Sylvia Plath, she stole my gas oven, oh, 


thank you, Sylvia Plath.


And I sit on committees, oh,


and we do good things, oh,


and the clock's stuck at four o'clock, oh,


and i listen to music i don't like, oh,


and the flowers they droop, oh,


and shed their petals, oh,


and the colour of my dreams fade, oh,


and i wonder where my life went, oh,


and i welcome all, oh,


into my freshly spring-cleaned home, oh,


and watch the children grow, oh,


and i say i have to get my act together, oh,


and i watch the time go, oh,


and wait for the mailman to come, oh,


and Sylvia Plath stole my gas oven, oh, 


thank you, Sylvia.


Copyright: Karen Adler

Beware The Twisted Woman 
Drawing A Life
Feet In The Sand, Head In The Clouds
For God, King and Country
From the Shadow Lake 
Good Catholic Girls
He Sculpted Her In Sand
Hardening of the Hearteries
I Painted The Sky Last Night
I Will Wrap Myself Around The Earth
Just Because
Kev the Canadian’s Mum and Dad 
Love Wears A Red Satin Skirt
Love’s Emissary
My New Garden
Spring Poem
Swallows in Spain 
Thank you, Sylvia Plath
The Kind They Crucify
The Pheromone of Love Meets the Scent of Sex
The Train of Thought and the Stream of Consciousness
The Woman Called God
When Death Comes
Where I Live
Woman of Dreams 

Spring Poem.

I will weave a spell of happiness today,

I will sow the seeds of love in my soul.

I will gather rosebuds while I may,

I will wear my hair wild

and my feet bare

and brown

from the sun.

I will shine

like the sun coming up in the morning.

I will hold the world in my hands.

I will weave magic today.

I will make magic for you and for me.

We will fly to the stars,

and sing with birds

and float with bright-coloured butterflies,

As we burst into bloom,

as we become stardust and moondust,

as we become sunshine,

as we dance into Spring,

And weave spells of happiness

around each other,

and sow seeds of love

in each other’s soul.

Copyright:  Karen Adler, 2009

For God, King and Country.

For God, King and Country -

Intones the stone memorial 

At the local cricket ground - 


They died.


I read the names


Carved in grey stone,


Once chiselled in sharp relief,


Now muted by time and weather.


A tiny snail


Moves across the grey stone,


Slithering its silver trail behind,


Over the names 


Of those


Who died


For God, King and Country.



A small, cheerful sparrow


Alights on the cold stone monument,


Hopping across the top,


Pecking at the silver trail


Shining over the names


Of those who died.



A dry, brown leaf


Flutters from the naked branches


Of an old old tree


Overhanging the cold grey slab,


With its long-dead names


Wreathed with its trail of silver.



A nest of brown, curling leaves 


Gathers at the foot of the stone memorial,


A light autumn blanket of leaves


Covering the cold, dead feet 

Of those who died


... in the name of Peace.



Copyright: Karen Adler, 1998

The Pheromone of Love Meets the Scent of Sex.


          Scented with the pheromone of love,

With the scent of sex,

With the music of muscles - 

... tensed,

... and tight,

... and taut,

... and taunting.

With the sounds and the sighs of the senses,

And scented with the pheromone of love,

And the scent of sex,

... the sighs of sex,

... the sounds of sex,

... the smiles of sex,

... the slyness of sex.

Drowning in the water and wine,

Swimming in space and time,

We move to the rhythm of sex,

... and the flow of love,

... and the fluids of sex,

... and the knowing of love,

... and the noises of sex,

... and the joy 

...and the laughter

... of Love,

... and of Sex.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 1998


Good Catholic Girls.

We went to see the priest - Father Duffy was his name.

Six of us good Catholic girls, we crossed the road, we were game.


We giggled a little, but not very much - 


Giggling was for State school girls and we were not such.


Knocking brightly at the door, we were ushered inside


To the inner sanctuary, full of sunshine and spiritual pride.


A question for Father Duffy and we were up next,


Not one of a spiritual nature - we wanted to know about sex.


Why is it wrong, Father, we had to ask,


To ... well ... you know ... Phew! what a task.


We giggled, we stammered and then we blushed –


We good Catholic girls, we models of hush.


Father Duffy smiled, he probably knew what was coming


From a good Catholic school, where sex was fairly humming.


No need to be afraid, girls, Father Duffy called,


I’m God’s representative and He’s  seen it all!


Five good Catholic girls looked at me, for I had been elected


To ask this oh so tricky question that we had selected.


Petting, Father, I said with a burst,


Why’s it so wrong and how can it hurt?


Father Duffy didn’t seem surprised and he didn’t look shocked


At such a controversial question from six of his flock.


Well, girls, he said with understanding cool,


(A priest of the new order, this one, and in no way a fool)


Sex is something like a swimming pool.


A swimming pool! we thought, all us eager little swimmers,


Deep and dark and wet, full of tiny spermy skimmers.


Giggling and squirming, we waited for more


Of Father Duffy’s unusual reading of God’s law.


We good Catholic girls waited breathless in anticipation


For a continuation of this new and latest revelation.


Do you get just as wet  in the shallow end, Father Duffy asked,


As when you dive headfirst into the very deepest part?



Our heads still full of tiny spermy skimmers,


We nodded with glee, all us eager little swimmers.


At last Father Duffy looked just a wee bit surprised,


His anti-sex lesson wasn’t being read as he’d surmised.


Before Father Duffy could clear up this spiritual misunderstanding,


We good Catholic girls, all prim and proper and all very randy,


Raced to the door with good Catholic poise - 


We were off to teach swimming to the good Catholic boys.


And these days, I must say that all us good Catholic girls


As enthusiastic swimmers are well known throughout the world.


So we thank you Father Duffy, for those words so long ago


Of swimming pools and wetness and diving with the flow.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 1995

Just Because.

When they asked me why

I told them ...

Because I love the sea

And because I love waves on the shore

Because I love the sound of rain on the roof

And I love to see water running in the gutters

Because I love open doors on a Summer night

And Autumn leaves falling from the trees

Because I love the naked branches of Winter

And I love the flowers of Springtime

Because I love bright kites flying in the park

And because I love the city lights at night

Because I love the noise and colour of the markets

And the bustle of life in the streets

Because I love music and singing

Because I love good food

Because I love books

Because I love dogs and sometimes, cats

Because I love the sound of your laughter

And I love the stillness and the silence

Because I love the song of the sea

And the sigh of the wind

And the cry of seagulls in flight

Because I’m stubborn

Because I’m brave

Because I’m determined

Because I love life

... Just Because


Copyright: Karen Adler, 1998

Swallows in Spain.

Shrill peeps of swallows


in wide swoops

in the high, clean air

of a Spanish village.

Like tiny kamikaze planes

flying dangerously close

to ancient walls,

pulling back at the very last moment

so that the feathers of tiny wings

brush softly against stone.

Scientists are studying

the navigational strategies of bees

so they can build

unmanned planes

to fly long distances

to bomb

cities and towns and villages 

that are not unmanned.

Bees have not been consulted

as to their wishes.

Nor have the people in the 

cities and towns and villages

over which the planes with no people in them

will circle and swoop

and drop their bombs.

Copyright: Karen Adler, July, 2008

My New Garden.

I have a nice little pot of Resentment

which I sit on the windowsill

in my kitchen.

It’s the poison I take daily

with the fervent hope

that you will die.

I don’t allow the sun’s rays

to warm it through the window.

Instead, I feed it from the past 

with that sweet and fermented

nectar of broken dreams,

the sour wine of old and bitter hate,

the stagnant water of time standing still

that I dredge up 

now and again

while I wonder where my life has gone.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2008

Hardening of the Hearteries.

A harder heart

is necessary to survive

in a hard world.

But it is something to be guarded against.

A softer heart 

is necessary to survive

with joy

in a hard world.

It is something to be guarded and protected.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2008

The Train of Thought and The Stream of Consciousness.

I love writing


and drivel

and just jumping aboard

that train of thought

that pulls so readily, 

so regularly, 

with such anticipation,

each morning

when I open my eyes

wondering where it will end up, 

what station it will be stopped at 

and shunted off

onto a sidetrack

or if it will

be derailed completely.

I love diving

into that stream of consciousness, 

finding out if the

water be deep 

or shallow,


or cloudy

or murky

or muddied up with stuff.

Sometimes I wonder

what it would be like

to stay on board the train of thought

till it reaches its destination

or to just float along

on the stream of consciousness

till it reaches the ocean. 

Copyright: Karen Adler, September, 2008 

I Painted the Sky Last Night.

Last night I followed the contours of the coast

from Bronte to Bondi.

I carried a can of housepaint with me 

and a thick, heavy brush.

As I followed the contours of the coast,

the sun began to set

and the sky became a ceiling of pastel pinks and blues

stretching in front and around and above me.

But I wanted more - 

More colour, more vibrancy, more connection with creation.

So I plunged my brush

into the can of housepaint

and slapped it across the sky -

giant brush strokes of thick paint 

in swathes of glorious colour.

I saw people stop to admire

my sky of rose pink, dusty plum, fuchsia,

my clouds of slate grey and deep blue,

like volcanic explosions in the sky.

I saw one man walking with his face upturned,

awash in skycolours,

as if the paint had been too heavy, too vibrant

to remain in the sky

and had leaked earthwards

and clothed him in sunset.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 1998

From the Shadow Lake.

From the shadow lake

Drunk as a wind symphony

Dreaming with blue white sleep


Under vision and eternity


Beneath mist on your mad wet skin




so languid


She watches love.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2007

Where I Live.

Where watching puppies play 

in the window of the Pet Palace

is a spectator sport -

a child’s favourite outing for the day

and an adult’s reminder of 

once having been 

just like that child

where watching puppies 

wrestle with each other

is heaps better than TV.

Where a government’s apology, 

long-needed, long-overdue,

is accepted with grace

and Sorry is scrawled

on footpaths and displayed

in shop windows

and welcomed

and discussed between strangers

and reminds you of when

you were proud to be Australian.

Where Council signs

threaten fines 

of up to a million dollars – 

and why not a gazillion dollars? I wonder –

for dumping things 

in the street

but still the residents

leave their no-longer-needed things

for others to collect 

and take home

like a continuous Christmas Day


Where Herbie the inventor

wears a white coat –

quite similar to Dr Frankenfurter’s -

as he bolts

up the street

to direct a truckload of 

strange and new parts

from which to concoct

strange and new things.

Where vacant lots

with grass grown waist high

and morning glories 

trailing up rusted wire fencing

take me out of the city

and back to my childhood

of open spaces and exploration

of the little country town

where everyone 

knew everyone.

Where possibly the only

tuba-playing busker

in the world

sits on a milk crate

on Saturday mornings

and oom-pah-pah’s

reverberate off the asphalt

as you walk towards him

with a smile

at the strange loveliness

of it all

on your face.

I quite like

where I live

these days …

Copyright:  Karen Adler, 2008



And she sculpted her mother 

With big bottom and wide girth,

Tight, patient smiles and the miracle of birth.

And she sculpted the daughter - 

Big bottom ... wide girth.

And he sculpted his father

With broad shoulders and broad grin,

Football scores and acceptance of sin.

And he sculpted the son -

Broad shoulders ... broad grin.

Each sculpted the other

And no true semblance found,

Only pictures ...

Just pictures

Of big bottom, wide girth, broad shoulders, broad grin.

Each making larger what was there

Creating at last people unable to care.

So they tried again,

Gave it just one more go -

With a touch more distance,

A little more space,

A tad more caring,

And perhaps some grace.

And the mother she sculpted a daughter unknown,

And thus was the father and also the son.

They cast to the wind

Big bottom, wide girth, broad shoulders, broad grin,

Finding therein

Pictures ...

No more ...

Than pictures.

And thus was born some semblance of truth

But only, alas, with the passing of youth.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 1993



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