My Personal Favorite: Karen Paul Holmes

Karen Paul Holmes


At this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?




What Will You Do, God, When I Die?


            —after a line by Rilke


Will you become me, and I you

as I leave this body, the only home I remember?

Will rejoining be serenity,

even more than I feel

lying drowsy in my love’s embrace?


I believe you are the light

that passes through every body, the space

occupying each atom, water

permeating the sponge

of all flesh, all matter.

They say I am that, but in this human

being-ness, have forgotten.


Will you give me a white tassel, light as breath

for passing all my lifetimes?

Or send me back to trudge again through

the thousand lessons I failed?


This time, I think I learned to love

the right way, to find you in my core.

I have felt sorrow’s blade

carving a place for grace to fill.

Am I ready to rise with this mist

lifting from the river in morning’s silver?


  • Karen Paul Holmes from No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018).

Poem originally appeared in Diode


Thanks for asking me this, Kelly.

This poem came from a prompt (the Rilke poem) at a workshop in San Miguel de Allende. I chose the poem for three reasons. First, it was a pleasure to write—the words flowed onto the page from somewhere outside of me. There’s no better feeling than receiving a gift like that. It didn’t even need much editing, which is unusual for me, and was one of the few times I felt able to successfully share deep spiritual beliefs through poetry. As a teen, I had read Kahlil Gibran and what stayed with me profoundly was his idea of pain carving out a hole for happiness to fill. I was grateful that made its way into the poem. Then I was grateful Diode (a dream journal for me) accepted it rather quickly. Thinking about writing the poem, also reminds me of my week in the lovely Mexican colonial town (with great food!) studying with poets like Kevin Young and the then Poet Laureate of Britain Carol Ann Duffy. I’m happy, too, that the poem fit well into my book. I guess that’s more than three reasons.



Karen Paul Holmes Cover

Available from Terrapin Books or other locations listed on the Terrapin site.



Karen Paul Holmes has two full-length poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). She was named a Best Emerging Poet by Stay Thirsty Media, and publications include Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Review, Diode, and Pedestal. Recently, her poems were featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown. Holmes is a freelance business writer who also teaches poetry workshops and hosts The Side Door Poets in Atlanta, GA and a monthly open mic in the Blue Ridge Mountains.