Laurie Kuntz – Turning old

Kuntz LE P&W June 2023

Download PDF Here
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2023

Turning old, poems by Laurie Kuntz.

Turning Old

We’re likened to flowers–
delphinium, crocus, forsythia,
names that color the raspy throat of time,
fill the air with familiar gray tones,

but consider the hydrangea
kindred to diminished hues of November
it shutters from wine to teal till petals
gleam like burnt sapphires, pearls, bronze.

Pansies, petunias, zinnias
in their crimson dresses
tear in October’s rush of wind

the hydrangea remains steadfast
bleached from wind and time its colors turn
from lavender to sea-shades,

turn from summer’s incense
to the perch of night with distant
sounds of bells and strength of chimes.

Portulaca In Shadow

August in L.A.

a litany of the familiar,
delphinium, dianthus, columbine,
each flower, a vise on the redolent pocket of time,

You seek deliverance
among red palmed petals of portulaca,
transplanted from a garden in Vietnam,
now wrapped tight in evening’s bud.

What grows in L.A.

is common to both lands
and you listen for sounds of Asian gardens–
bamboo creaking in an October wind,

bike wheels on gravel,
the clink of a teaspoon
against the cobalt rim of china
and in high grass, feline declarations.

But, here, in L.A.

under the drone of imminent freeways
the purple vine of morning glory
chokes the trellis and the memory

of an egret’s call ascending
from rice fields pales
against the clamor of the angel’s city.

An unspeakable loneliness
claims your life as the past
clenches shut, like portulaca in shadow.


If a moment can summon desire,

a bus depot in Hartford,
the February wind blowing curls across your neck,
your gloveless hand reaching for me, does…

On a wooden bench in that bus station,
the morning’s rage, the slam of pay phones,
the bite of words from hours before,
a sting in my ear as I watch
revolving doors ease you into the crowd.

It would bemoan us to talk of such things now…

when now what we talk of
is measured by snowfall and taxes,
our days no longer torched
by the slender slice of time
or pickup points.

Decades from depots,
the same haunted light breaks our sleep,
we recognize our stale smells
and wake armed with dreams
of parceled moments…

morning’s arc profiles your face

and I am back on that hard bus station bench,
like a ghost, you loom, angry and in love in Hartford,
then the station empties of bums and bag ladies
and in our measured stares, our fretful embrace,
the place ignites, once more, in the terminus of our lives.

Countless Concubines

Hunched under oil scented tarps, protected against damp drizzle,
a boatman rows us down the Perfume River in Hue,
we turn a cold shoulder from vendors on mossy banks hawking brass idols.

Only eleven, you tire of dog-eared tour books,
museums and motorless boats,
playing your Gameboy you wish for wonders
of everything battery operated.

We reach the tomb of Tu Duc, the Vietnamese Emperor,
who had 104 wives and countless concubines.
His tea, made from drops of dew,
condensed overnight on the leaves of lotus plants,
yet, imperial luxury brought him no sons.

None like you, who sit next to me in complaint
of yet another tomb, another hundred steps to climb.
I tell you all monuments are built because of love
made of rock and surrounded by walls to protect.

In downpour we embark, mother and son,
up frangipani-lined paths to Tu Duc’s tomb.
It is then, you relish, as only a boy in awe of kings
and their gluttony of passion can,
the thought of an emperor reclining on high
stone columns fanned by countless concubines.

And, I feel lucky not to crave kings and concubines,
but just to relish as a mother can, in all that can not be counted.

Gorgeous Girls

The resplendent foreign girl
threw up in class last night.
Everyone forgave her,
offered to copy lecture notes,
lend her a cell phone,
e-mail her mother in some faraway land.

I imagined her 200 pounds,
with pitted cheeks, and a bowl haircut,
her vomit would have flurried
chairs from desks,
opened winter windows wide.

When I dared to look at the gorgeous girl’s vomit,
it was just that–
dainty, pearled balls of rice, almost edible white

Having been a gorgeous girl once,
I know how it is to get away with everything,

how the air parts with the scent of jasmine
and allows the swallow’s song to linger,
commanding all that gorgeous girls need
to return to their seats and pretend
that nothing has happened.

© Laurie Kuntz

Laurie Kuntz has published two poetry collections (The Moon Over My Mother’s House, Finishing Line Press and Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press), and three chapbooks (Talking Me Off The Roof, Kelsay Books, Simple Gestures, Texas Review Press and Women at the Onsen, Blue Light Press).  Her poetry is inspired by living in Asia for over thirty years. She has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and one Best of the Net. Her chapbooks, Simple Gestures, won the Texas Review Poetry Chapbook Contest, and Women at the Onsen won the Blue Light Press Chapbook Contest. Currently residing in Florida, everyday offers an opportunity for a much needed political poem. Otherwise, happily retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind.

Visit her at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.