Origin Stories – Karen Paul Holmes

Origin Stories for May
So, Supposedly, We Each Have an Angel Over One Shoulder   
    So, Supposedly, We Each Have an Angel Over One Shoulder   
    by Karen Paul Holmes

    But the thing is, we have to ask for help.
    Until we ask, the angel just has to sit or float there,
    filing its nails, plucking out loose wing feathers,
    bored silly watching the soap opera of our lives.

    When we plead, Protect me from evil,    
    especially during my IRS audit, does it work    
    like the commercial where a steamy bowl
    of Cream of Wheat hovers over
    the boy’s head all day warding off cold and flu,
    maybe bullies too?

     Remember not to make selfish requests.   
    If Bulldog fans pray for their team to win 
    and Spartans pray for the opposite, it would cause
    the angels on both sides to fight,
    and angels just don’t do that.

    We also must be careful what we ask for:
    like that time I wanted the VP job so badly,   
    yet it sucked the life out of me. Still, I prayed
    I wouldn’t get laid off, did anyway, got a big
    severance. Now I get to work
    from home in sweatpants, dog at my feet.

    Or like that joke where the hard-of-hearing genie
    will grant one wish, and the guy asks for a 12-inch
    you-know-what, but gets a foot-tall pianist instead.
    The guy makes the best of it by bringing the baby
    baby grand and tiny tuxedoed man to bars
    and collecting tips but still, it can make us a little
    paranoid about articulating our requests.

    We finally learn from asking for the wrong things
    or not asking: thinking we can do life by ourselves.
    Now I’ve decided to ask my angel to help me
    ask for the right thing, always.
    Without her—and yes, I see my angel as a she
    with alabaster cheeks—life is like throwing ourselves
    blind and naked down
    the iciest luge track in the world.		

    From No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018)

Origin Stories – So, Supposedly, We Each Have an Angel Over One Shoulder

I like humor in poems, but I also like it when there’s a serious note underneath. The origin of this poem was a sort of philosophical/spiritual debate I had in my head. Are there angels? Do they really help if you ask? How do you know what to ask, because if you can’t see the big picture of your life, how do you really know what’s good for you? Think of how often you’ve heard or said, “It was horrible at the time, but turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.” I certainly have said it. So while I make jokes in the poem, I really do believe in the advice “Be careful what you wish for.” My prayers are no longer “Please, give me…” but “Please help me know what’s best for me and others.” On that note, the quip about football teams is something that dawned on me when I was quite young: Why would God be on my football team’s side and not the other’s? And, I will admit I stole the idea of the luge track in the last line from a Jerry Seinfeld joke.


Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry books, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, and Verse Daily. Publications include Diode, Plume, Valparaiso Review, and Prairie Schooner. She is also a freelance writer who has taught writing workshops at various venues and conferences. In 2022, Holmes was the Tweetspeak Poetry “Poet Laura” and a finalist for the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize.





No Such Thing as Distance: http://www.amzn.com/099821597X

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

April 24 – Maryann Hurtt

April 25 – Yvonne Zipter

April 26 – Jess Parker

April 27thKelly Sargent

April 28thRobbi Nester

April 29thLaurie Rosen

April 30thJames Penha

May 1stOisin Breen

May 2ndJennifer Shomburg Kanke

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

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