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Karen Winterburn

Grand Prize 2009 Novice Christian Poetry Contest $500

About this Christian Poet:
Karen Winterburn lives in Glenview, Illinois with her husband. They have four grown sons, two granddaughters, and one on the way. Karen works in Adult Faith Formation and Bible Study in her parish church, St. Catherine Laboure. She has written articles and contributed chapters to two books on evangelization and apologetics. She writes poetry as a means of understanding and expressing a relationship with God.

About this Poem:
God who is Love works in me so that I become all that he wants me to be. He wants all of me, including those immature and unruly parts that I can't seem to get a hold of and I would just as soon disown. These little outposts of rebellion are part of the "me" whom he loves. He gives them a wide berth of mercy and forgiveness, and in the end he wins them to intimacy with him. I find he is working to integrate all the parts of me so that I can give myself more completely to him.


Self is a strange enemy.
She eats grapes between the sheets,
setting my teeth on edge. Often enough
I could have snuffed her out, appeased hostile forces
with her blood. She was weak then
and there were plenty of takers.
Love begged me for her life.

                                             What does he know?
                                             He doesn't have to put up with me.

I've heard you can't properly kill a baby Self anyway.
She'll eat the bullet and mutate,
burrow into bunkers you didn't know were there.
She'll suck your whole house underground,
take jealous potshots at all your guests
and booby-trap Love.
You'll never get rid of her.

                                             He scares me! Calls me his little grain of wheat.
                                             What's he up to?

"Let her skin a knee," Love said, gone all avuncular,
"give her room to hone her edge, nerve desire." But I knew,
one day when she was strong her life would be required of me.
I'd be the enemy of my past.
She moved back home.
I was suspicious, but she rubbed my feet, brewed tea,
and paid the mortgage. She even got along with Love.

                                             Let's fix up the Coach House for him,
                                             scent it with gardenia, warm it with melting beeswax.

She settled him in with cushions and footstool, posted visitation hours,
and came back home. Then Self sat me down with a schedule
of Good Works and Important Causes,
and changed the lock on the door.
She'd hid a gauntlet in the paperwork,
and one beneath Love's cushion.
From kitchen and Coach House the battle was joined.

                                             No, I haven't heard from him.
                                             It seems it's just the two of us. More tea?

I spilled it down the sink and seized the key.
She grew tempting-sharp and slender before my eyes,
gleamed to the hilt, and fit my hand for Works and Causes;
was what Love had waited for
but liked herself better;
then hid from me,
afraid I would blunt her edge.


I'd have happily run Self through but she was the rapier:
glinting spine of steel and too interior to kill.
I hoped Love would take me in without her,
but the Coach House is empty.
Muffled sounds of combat beg the query:
will he kill my enemy or does he love her more than me?
Self---dazzled and soft---must've heard my heart pound:

                                             He's peeling grapes for me
                                             here between the sheets.

I can taste them in a dream, sweet as peace,
pressed to my tongue warm from the vine,
round as mystery
and juicy with life.
I sleep where strife dissolves
in a silken fog of whispers,
and I awake there gleaming, fit to his hand.

Copyright ©2009 by Karen Winterburn