Featured Palabracita: Karen Garrabrant (Karen G)

La Palabra is honored to present poet, Karen Garrabrant, aka Karen G as a featured Palabracita. Karen G has a recognizable voice within the poetic community. She uses distinctive imagery and stark realism to expose a reaction to the world which is raw and penetrating. Please enjoy this small collection of her work.





Karen G. is a slam master for the Art Amok Atl Slam Team, the team of odd winnings and champions & she does bookings for poets in the SE. For 12 years she has hosted the alterna voices no-mic,Cliterati. She’s rather famous for hugs & is published in Aim for the Head, a zombie anthology on Write Bloody Press and Women Warriors; 35 leaders in the spoken word revolution. She also received the 2011 Capturing Fire Lifetime Achievement Award & serves as a trustee on the governing body of Poetry Slam Inc.





Poetry by Karen G


Misogyny, in Two Phases

Phase 1

I used to see under her pink slips
varicose veins
timber legs.

Weather changes of moods
made my pen move angrily
in crooked characters
stabbing at a diary

I kept locked.

I used to refuse her kisses
the smell of wax paper lips
drawn on—drawn on lines
creeped me out
maybe it was the way she would say
“I am putting my face on”
as though
she didn’t have one
until the mirror told her so.

I feared her thickness, her legs
the standing to all my temper tantrums

The shame of her belly prickled
underneath my skin
flames of questions
of bed squalls

I reviewed in horror
the shapes of all the women I knew
who grew up enveloping me
in their powdered Chantilly

rose perfumes
the cake of their make-up
all out of bounds
the cottage cheese and doughyness
common to white flesh.

I hated it
I cursed with dread

the becoming
the curves

the new shapes inevitable

to my future.
I uttered the words
“I would rather die than be fat”
and so I ran
with my heart throbbing like fists
against a wall to get out, get at me.
I pumped pedals and grit my teeth solid
against inclines.

Against. Against.

Against the feminine.
I cultivated a preference for salt, like sweat
like ocean
instead of sugar

hoping I could will myself willow

always failing.

This was my woman-mother-myself


I held blades to my skin for years
steak knives
potato peelers
pink plastic shavers
never quite cutting to be obvious
just grazing
just lines of snow
just a threat to my skin
and whatever demons squirreled underneath
to defy me, as I was sure
they would.

A classmate collapsed
from marathon running
living on carrots, celery, water.
How many of us envied
her fortitude
her strength against the mouth inside
wanted that gaping wound
of stomach, of appetite
to just shut up.

For so long, I associated weight loss
with a depression
a tropical sink hole
and tightrope of self-control.

Phase 2

I am fat now
and not dead.

I found there are worse
names for things
to die over

a cause.

Natural disasters
all arrive soon

All bodies are weird
the chicken feet of a friend
the parts assigned to the wrong
the sloped curve of a back
the no-ass of a high femme
the grey streaked twenty year olds
the scars, the scars, the scars.

Bodies change

And now my mother is shrinking
a mystery, a puzzle doctors keep testing
for months on end.

I remember the first time she was smaller
than me
frail from chemo, radiation.

I held jealousy slippery

in my hands.

it confirmed an instant
of my capacity for a sick relationship
to weight loss, weight gain.

Now I eat with vengeance
as my mother cannot.
I chew with fervor, anger eating
while my mother picks.
She is states away and I have a taste for sweets now
as she becomes bird-boned, can see her ribs, orders
new pants for knobby knees.

All the hatreds, curses, defiled thoughts
I eat with a fury to stay alive
girlhood fears dwindling
becoming pencil shavings
washed down a drain.




This Dress
The last time I wore my favorite dress
it sang to Mozart
the first live opera attended
in more than ten years, the month
of April, a month I mourned
an opera singer.
This is my
favorite dress
it flows
simple black
dries on hangers
on the backs
of doors.
This dress
receives compliments
I am open in this dress
I’ve been told
I am beautiful
in this dress.
A summer dress of black
I have made it versatile with
long sleeves underneath
black sweater
pulled over.
This dress
is the one I drape around myself
for good times
special events
simple dress up.
This is my go-to dress
funerals are
particular events
and this dress witnessed
and will count more.
I have cried, laughed
and been ecstatic
in this dress
been fed and embraced in this dress.
I encircle others in this dress
In the hem of this dress
I sweep my steps
swish through the walks
required of me.
The seams of this dress
are reminders
thread of my own skin
reminders of
what keeps me from unraveling.
This dress
holds me up.

Sick arrived after I learned the news

Sick arrived after I learned the news
I say learned the news with purpose
I went over and over and over it
like study for a test
not sure of the answers
you? really? those slender bones I
thought knew
Hold a woman down?
not yes or no questions
but a no.
Sober, you can’t even blame
drugs and alcohol.
I kept feeling it
broken tooth
grave, darkness
you always screaming
bleating, bleating,bleating
how did you birth
crisis from between
another’s thighs—stained now
Were you all really fake jesus blood
persecuted all the time
pointing blame at doctors, tests
crying victimvictim
survivor of so many people dying
making your nerves show
more loudly than our own?
I study
I learn this news and rewind
how I saw the answers
my lack of surprise
the way you held up fucking
and shared pillow intimacies like a  captured flag
dead as a prize, mute, voiceless
no rebuttal for shared secrets
against her will
now that she’s gone.
I see it now
like you must have done to other women
stuffing their mouths with your bleating
bleating heart
all the while
your self hatred gnawing jaws
out of you
bite marking them now
casting them shadows
the the dark dark phrase,
the correct answer to a test
I failed in knowing
I am a feminist
and my friend is a rapist

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