Origin Stories – Wanda Praisner

Origin Stories

                          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.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Available now!

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

Other Links

About National Poetry Month

What is National Poetry Month?

Books for National Poetry Month

Origin Stories