Next Birthday Ode

It’s not easy turning into straw, unseen
and barely heard when the starlet
tunes her luminous hips
on the old-timey mattress.
It’s not easy being a lobster after the guests
have had their fill, your naked fuchsia claws
akimbo on the streaky linen sea,
butter cold in the dipping bowls.
It’s not easy bumping like a bowling ball
toward the pristine pins, heroic voice-over
in your head, only to spool toward the chute
that spins you offstage in view of everyone.


Karen Kovacik is the author of the poetry collections Metropolis Burning, Beyond the Velvet Curtain, and Nixon and I. Her work as a poet and translator has received numerous honors,including the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum, two fellowships in literary translation from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Fulbright Research Grant to Poland. She’s the translator most recently of Jacek Dehnel’s Aperture (Zephyr, 2018), a finalist for the 2019 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and she’s the editor of the anthology of Polish women poets, Scattering the Dark (White Pine, 2016). Professor of English at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, she served as Indiana’s Poet Laureate from 2012-2014. For contact information, please visit her website:

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