Literature 9-17-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Karsten Piper

"What Light: This Week's Poem," sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Look for our anthology, What Light, at Magers and Quinn in Uptown or online.

Karsten Piper

To the Future Husband of My Wife

You favor corduroy, 

wearing shirts a second day, 

and toting everywhere a leather satchel. 

You never bind your poems in any sort of dossier; 

still, you seem cheerful 

digging through the pile

where you are sure you left them.  And you smile

at your own stories—your boy 

on his fourth birthday, 

drumming at your face 

because you belly-

laughed at him for sitting on the cake. 

You tell us how you love your wife to coil 

you with her legs, deep under the duvet, 

and far prefer her warmth and toenails

to waking in the sort of rubble 

left behind by Shelley, say. 

You mention how you miss some pals

who often barbeque across the valley—

and Jane, 

who died. Your fingers tremble. 

You smooth your hair 

behind your ears.  It flops away. 

Most of your poems, you do not have by memory, 

so read them to us with a wine-warm feel. 

Your eyebrows are expressive marvels. 

After all your books, you are deliriously wealthy, 

or you are not—we cannot tell. 

Opening a bottle, 

you pour water for yourself, 

then blithely take that other fellow’s cup and drink it all. 

My wife will never marry you, Galway Kinnell,

though watching you tonight she thinks she may

already have, and smiles.


Karsten Piper teaches at Minnesota West Community & Technical College in Worthington, MN. He recently returned with his family from a year-long sabbatical studying poetry at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Since then, his poems have appeared in several magazines including awards from Willow Springs and Rock & Sling.


When Galway Kinnell came onstage, he carried a bag that he didn’t seem to need, tucked his hair behind his ears though it wouldn’t stay, lost track of the second pages of poems, and sipped from the water cup Michael Longley had left at the podium. “He’s like you in fifty years,” my wife said. This became yet another moment that has obliterated in me the idea that poems are specimens for analysis. A poem is always a human communication. A warm-blooded person is always just a pencil-tip beyond the poem.