K. J. Van Deusen

KJ Van Deusen

In 2013, KJ Van Deusen sold her home of 28 years in the Black Hills of South Dakota, uprooted deep roots and set out for adventure with husband, cat and dog. Since then she has experienced small town and resort town life on the North Coast of California and the High Rockies of Colorado as well as urban life in the heart of Denver.

She now lives near Boulder, Colorado with an unobstructed 100 mile view of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, where, from time to time she finds the sun setting over snow-capped, jagged peaks almost as good as moonpath on the Mediterranean. . .

KJ still longs for a return to the Mediterranean world, but for now, she is quite satisfied living close to her beloved daughter, who appears in many of her poems, and baby grand-daughter, inspiration for many poems to come.

You Must Change Your Life

We toss keys, ticket stubs, spare coins, Euros
Into the bowl on the bureau between them.
Top one head with a driving cap,
The other, a straw Fedora,
Drape jackets, Florentine scarves
Over wings and shoulders
Every time we come back to the apartment.

But not until the last day of a week spent
In a city of Renaissance sculpture,
Do we take the time to just stand there
And look at them.

Two cherubs perched each at the top of a curve
On a ponderous swirl of marble
That was once, we imagine, a cornice.
Each holds, in one chubby marble hand
A palm frond,
Which each, seems hesitant,
Or unwilling, to wave.

The cherub on the left is missing a wing
And one hand and arm to the elbow.
Appears to have been once decapitated too,
Its neck discolored and deeply gashed.

If the cherubs are the minor work of a major sculptor
And salvaged say, from some ruins or other
Or if they were simply made to look that way,
We cannot know.

Meanwhile, the cherubs go on sitting like that,
Their bodies turned toward one another
Heads tilted toward the other
Smooth, blank eyes looking down and away.
By the time we finally leave
We are convinced
By the way they hold those palm fronds
And the way their mouths down-turn
In constant disappointment
That, just like Rilke’s Torso of Apollo
There is no place in them that does not see you.


The way back from the market in Praiano
Was uphill, unshaded
Un-ending, it seemed, in the heat
(Almost) impossible in Positano sandals
Brand new, slippery, hand-tooled leather
Made to be worn with feet up
On a chaise lounge
In a shaded place overlooking the sea.

The air was more like water than air,
The sun, a burden, heavy-laden,
So also the sacks of provisions I carried
One in each hand.
My fingers hurt from the rough handles.
My face hurt from smiling so much,
From saying the only Italian words I knew
Over and over to the shopkeepers.
My head hurt from the knowledge
That we were running out of money.

I was alone
My daughter away in Sorrento for the day
Everyone else I loved,
Oceans and continents between us.
And there were still one hundred
Steep stone steps
To climb to the villa.

But there were roses lining that road
Thick clusters, long stems
Mother-of-pearl, coral and amber
In full bloom
Just the other side
Of the low, white-washed stucco walls,
The white scrolled wrought iron gates.
And every garden I passed was full of birds
And at least one sleeping cat.

The tile floors in the villa
Were exceedingly cool under bare feet.
And there was jasmine and bougainvillea
On the terrace providing fragrant shade.
And the table on the terrace was majolica
Painted blue with lemons.
And my lunch – boiled eggs
With yolks bright as poppies,
Tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella,
Balsamic vinegar, Sicilian wine.

The sea far below, directly below,
And all along the coast
Down to Amalfi, up to Positano,
Was sun-shot,
Steel blue, almost black and glassy
Dotted with bright white fishing boats.
But farther out, the blue of the Mediterranean,
As it had for days,
Faded, blurred and mingled
With the blue of the sky
So that I could not tell where one ended
The other began.
The two never separated.
And we never made it to Capri
Though we’d made plans.

Still, all day and into the evening,
I looked out to that island,
My Ithaka,
Yearned toward it with a rare excitement
As hour by hour some part of it appeared
Then disappeared
Out of, and into, the dazzling haze.

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Poetry in this post: © K. J. Van Deusen
Published with the permission of K. J. Van Deusen