Stars and By a 25 Watt Bulb

Poems by Laurie Burks Klemme


        “Are you sure every who down in who-ville is working?

        Quick! Look through your town! Is there anyone shirking?”

          — Horton in  Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

 Tall stalks of corn sway a threaded foot

to the darkness, and with or without the headlights

looking them over, a raccoon, opossum, a mouse

in the road survive another uncharted night…


and we are here, even the stars see it,

we are here, lights fallen out of the sky,

off to raise our young, our stories, and

the gods we’ll leave, having passed by briefly,

having been the small creatures behind

the round yellow eyes, having been,

for a moment, a big noise passing…

to be these bright exceptions

to the sky’s prevailing nature,

stars to define the sky’s


unoccupied space between lights. At the first

red flashing stoplight in town… her heart is so full

it could blow open as she asks if he believes, and he

explains the burden of words.


By a 25 Watt Bulb

Lately, my son knows the bunny from the bear,

Curious George, Big Bird and Ernie, the bright

world of chewable, washable rattles that live

along his crib. Even the bars’ shadows intrigue

his little fingers and he never tires of

the bears on beach balls that dance

above his head. And when he’s really

happy, he smiles broadly, coos and kicks

his feet. This morning, I woke up

so happy.    


And there is time still to teach him

about the other world, if he needs to know

flies crawl out the nostrils of other

little boys, that another baby boy on

the thin shoulder of his mother hasn’t grasped

a rattle, been lulled in the warm light of

a 25 watt bulb and a dark shade, gone to sleep

to the even creaking of a wicker rocker. Time

to imagine her heartbeat, that it probably          

sounds the same, keeping time like mine.                        


And there is still time to teach him   

to tell time, to make change, time zones,           

his own name, black and white, election

politics, voting your pocketbook, the virtue in

getting along, buying on sale, and deferring

to the experts. And then, the passion

of one Christ, his one cross, and what he’ll need

to know: grasshopper, lady bug, and fly.


Laurie Burks Klemme lives in Iowa City where she earned an MFA from the Iowa Wriers’ Workshop, has taught approximately 100 writing courses, written poems and essays while no one was looking, and spent the majority of her time raising twins alone. She wants it known that she is in no way sentimental about motherhood. It is simply the most challenging, exhausting, gut-wrenching, and important thing she has ever done. Now that her children are graduating from high school, and moving on, she is excited to be doing more of other things. After 15 years of research, writing, and plenty of avoidance, she is finishing a novel that explores the complexities of illegal immigration, family, and vocation.

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