Karakorum by Wanda S. Praisner That sunny dome! those caves of ice! S. T. Coleridge For social studies, I show my old slides of Mongolia. The five of us entering Ulan Bator's Hotel B where flies blacken the breakfast but ignore the white yogurt. My family by the propeller plane on the sandy runway. A student asks, Is that really you? and I answer, Yes. The yaks and Bactrian camels in the Gobi, where sun never reaches the snow and ice in Yolyn Am, Valley of the Eagles. Then, the slide of my son on a Mongolian horse, only vast desert and the owner's felt and canvas yurt in the background. This very spot where Marco Polo came to Karakorum--Kublai Khan's pleasure-dome, the palace garden angel fountains offering wayfarers honey, yogurt, milk, water and vodka-- only a stone turtle left to mark the place. I tell how these high-cheeked people may have crossed a land bridge to America. A student asks, Is that the son who died? and I answer, Yes.
Origin Stories – Karakorum
Reading the poem now, I remember how difficult it was for me when the student asked the two questions—first, because I obviously looked different in the slides, younger—second because the grief of losing a child never ends.
The poem is an accounting of the experience, adding a bit of what our guide shared with us.
It’s a poem about time, in far-off Mongolia and within a family, a poem I haven’t read in a long time. And all these years later, it’s still difficult.
“Karakorum” first appeared in Lullwater Review, then in my first book. A Fine and Bitter Snow.
WANDA S. PRAISNER, one of the 9 NJ poets to read in 2021 (NJ Digest), is a recipient of fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the Dodge Foundation, PFAWC, and VCCA. She’s appeared in Atlanta Review, Lullwater Review, and Prairie Schooner. Books include: A Fine and Bitter Snow (USCA, ‘03), On the Bittersweet Avenues of Pomona (Winner of the Spire Press 2005 Poetry Chapbook Award), Where the Dead Are (CKP, ‘13), Sometimes When Something Is Singing (Antrim House, ‘14), Natirar (Kelsay Books, ‘17), and To Illuminate the Way (Aldrich Press ‘18). A resident poet for the state, she’s received nineteen Pushcart Prize nominations, the Egan Award, Princemere Prize, Kudzu Award, First Prize in Poetry at the College of NJ Writer’s Conference, and the 2017 New Jersey Poets Prize.
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