“Olsen’s Pond”, a poem…..and Happy New Year To All!


My beautiful picture

Please bring in your cats and dogs, your pets.  The weather is fierce, and so many animals are killed by exposure. All over this country, dogs are chained to trees, or chained in kennels that have no real protection from the elements.  Here in the south, the brutality  and ignorance  towards animals is horrendous.  Even an official with the Atlanta Humane Society years ago told me that ‘dogs don’t mind sleeping on concrete, they don’t need shelter’.  The jackass.  I wish I could chain  him on concrete for a night.  He might reconsider when his joints freeze.

 We heat with a woodburning stove.  Our nine cats call a truce and all sleep on a wool blanket in front of the stove.  We are expecting some form of snow this Sunday night.  Tuesday we are expecting 6 degrees in the morning…and it’s not going to get beyond freezing for days.  Though I love Winter, and the possibilites of snow, it is hard on animals who don’t have proper shelter.  Make sure yours do.

Lady Nyo



I returned to the old house,

now still, vacant,

staring with unshaded eyes

upon a snowy front garden,

shrubs overgrown with the

lustiness of summer and neglect

now split to the ground,

taxed with a heavy snow.


I tried to light the parlor stove,

old cranky cast iron smoker

clanking and rattling

when heated in the best of times

now given up the ghost,

cold metal unyielding to wadded paper

and an old mouse nest.


The silence of the rooms only broken

by hissing wind whipping around  eaves

rattling old bones in the attic,

stirring the haunts sleeping in  corners.


It took a time for twigs to catch,

the water to turn coffee,

bacon and eggs brought from the city

and cooked in an old iron skillet–

tasting far better in the country air.


I looked down at hands cracked

in the brittle winter light,

moisture gone,  

hair static with electricity,

feet numbed from the chill,

that woodstove not giving up

more heat than a miser.


I walked down to Olsen’s pond,

looked through the glassine surface

remembered the boy who had fallen

through the ice while playing hockey–

slipped under the thin cover, disappearing

without a sound,

only noticed when our puck flew

Up in the air and he, the guard, missing.


We skated to the edge, threw bodies flat

trying to reach him just out of catch,

crying like babies, snot running down chins,

knowing he was floating just under the ice,

silent as the lamb he was.


Childhood ended that day for most of us.

We started to drift away to the city,

our skates and sticks put up,

Olsen’s pond deserted like a haunted minefield.


Fifty years ago I still remember that day

when stretched as far as I could

my belly freezing on treacherous ice,

grasping to reach a life just out of sight,

his muffler and stick floating to the surface–

The boy, the important part,

gone for good from a chilly winter ‘s play.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2012, 2014

“Olsen’s Pond” previously published in “A Seasoning of Lust”, available at Lulu.com


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10 Responses to ““Olsen’s Pond”, a poem…..and Happy New Year To All!”

  1. Caliban's Sister Says:

    I love this poem. It begins almost Robert Frost-like; then grows toward that lost boy and the memory of stretching across the ice and something innocent is lost forever under icy water. This is one of my favorites, from my (your) book. It bears re-reading, and gives the same resonant sense of time passing, the way certain memories are bound up with nature and deep cold and spareness, and then something warm floats under the ice. Love this. CS


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hello CS! This is one of my favorite poems, an early poem, (and I have to laugh at ‘early’ since I have been writing poetry only since 2007 or so, so everything is really ‘early’. LOL)

    I am so glad you read it and have read it again. This poem is true…to an extent. Don’t we all have something in our childhood that is tragic, shameful, something that haunts us as we grow up, and continues to haunt us in adulthood? Something in the memory that draws us back in life today?

    I have decided to work on “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”…something I started to write about 4 years ago, and put aside for the Japanese research and writing. (this poem will go in there, I am going to pepper this book with poems, but it won’t be a poetry book.) I am a lazy person, so it is good to declare that you will be ‘having a job’ to do everyday like a real job. LOL!

    I think that memory is probably the fullest ground to pull from, and of course our memories are bound up with other people’s memories. It can make a rich stew, and it also can make chaos.

    You are so right about certain memories are bound up with nature: I remember the snowfalls in NJ, in the countryside, where we were isolated by downed power lines and used the fireplaces for heat and cooking. Everything was white and grey and black then….and this spareness floats omnipresent in our minds.

    So many ghosts to chase.

    Thank you, CS, for reading and for leaving a comment. It delights me so much, gives meaning to me as a poet, when someone else resonates on a piece of work.



  3. czbz Says:

    Hi Jane!

    I read your poem the first day you posted it and it upset me and I didn’t know how to respond. When I was very young, we skated on open ponds in the country.One day my baby sister was on a sled and the it slowly slipped into an opening in the ice. Fortunately, she was okay because the edge of the pond was shallow and someone pulled her out, dripping mucky wet but safe. This is the sister who lives with me now and she was too little to remember nearly drowning. I remember it because even as a young child, I felt guilty for not noticing what had happened and making SURE she was safe. I’d have been about ten years old.

    I loved the poem until the tragic part when the boy drowned…it made me stop breathing for a second while painful memories washed over me. And then it was meditation time for me. I am so grateful my little sister was okay…what a trauma it would be for a child to witness another child’s death.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi CZ. The important part is that your sister was ok. And yes, it would be traumatic for another child to witness a death like this…or any death.

    When we write poetry, there are various responses to the pieces. Some others have had exactly the same response as you have: it has evoked either a fear, a dread or something of the a similar experience.

    I remember writing this in a rush, and for some reason, it came out of buried depths of childhood. When we are writing ‘close to the bone’ a lot of our work isn’t pretty, or uplifting, or positive. Being a poet gives the push to writing as honestly as you can. It isn’t easy, either, because after I wrote this, in this rush of words and sentiment…I was pretty shaken myself. It reached back into the darkest memories of a time in childhood. And that is what we poets, writers attempt to do to be ‘honest’ poets. I think we can write to shock, and that is pretty cheap. But when our cobbled words evoke long lost or forgotten or just under the surface experiences and memories….then we are creating something of some value.

    As for this guilt you felt as a child? Well, that’s pretty much the constant experience of ACONs. We shoulder burdens that are not ours, or are too adult for us to carry as children. Perhaps you situation was different as a child, and narcissism didn’t raise its ugly head until marriage? Well, guilt seems to be the natural gas of most of us. And growing up in a time when we both did….we naturally took on a lot of things that weren’t ours to carry. Yet we never consciously understood this. Child raising is much different nowadays.

    I have to say that when we take from our past experiences…and especially when the experiences are traumatic….we are doing a kind of therapy. We are looking at something that is veiled in so much fog and coming to terms with it and understanding from an adult perspective is a relief.

    Thank you, CZ, for reading this. I am sorry that it was upsetting, but that is what it would be considering your experience with your sister. I can’t read this early poem myself without tears.

    Love, Jane


  5. czbz Says:

    That was a beautiful response, Jane. Thank you for thoughtfully replying to my comment about “close to the bone” writing. A “close to the bone” reading allows us to feel buried sentiments we may not have reached otherwise, without having them triggered by a perfect phrase, a perfect metaphor.

    It was surprising to feel a crush of guilt wash over me again, the guilt an overburdened child with adult expectations on her narrow little shoulders. I suppose most eldest children feel this to some degree even if their family is not narcissistic. Evoking those deep deep feelings through poetry is a type of therapy, you’re so right and while it was upsetting to experience a five-decade-old feeling, it was not overwhelming at all. In fact, I could think about the experience, feel the feeling and consciously work through my illegitimate guilt.

    It IS a very beautiful and haunting poem and I shall read it again in one week’s time and see how it affects me. Just the metaphor of a frozen lake and something warm passing out of reach (as CS wrote), makes me tear up and I’m not quite yet sure why. Love CZ


  6. ladynyo Says:

    CZ…I so appreciate you taking this poem in such a serious way. This ‘close to the bone reading’. It is rare I am finding that people approach poetry in such ways. And that it evokes such strong memories in you means I have ‘connected’ in the ways that poetry can…and should. Our work should not be shallow, and when there is pain, well, it’s hitting close to the bone.

    Ahhh, I think we both know under the layers why you tear up (as in your last paragraph). The burden of such guilt..then…and now….lingering, your poor little shoulders…THAT makes me cry!

    The whole experience is just too much for any child. It is a tragedy that children should not experience, yet many of us do. You were lucky, and so was your younger sister. Death is an adult issue, and not for children. There are a few ways this could have turned out, you and your sister, but it did turn out the best way. But something like this is bound to stick to the memory and heart. It could have been so much worse.

    And the key here is what you already said: The guilt you felt was not legitimate. In a kinder, saner world, you wouldn’t have been subjected to this guilt.

    And you are exactly right: the guilt of an overburdened eldest child (I am too) with adult expectations (by yourself and others, too….) on your narrow little shoulders. Ah, that makes me cry, dear heart.

    Love, Jane…but look how strong and able you have grown into as a woman! You lead the pack~


  7. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Morning favorite wolf women, Jane, I too spent formative years as a child in NJ! There was a biggish pond out by the park behind our house. In winter people would go there to skate. I skated there many times. That feeling–bumpy ice, not ice like in a rink (there was a big skating rink in East Orange, NJ, that we used to go to) was a constant reminder that there would be places we’d need to tap with our skates to see if they were thin. So the poem evokes deep childhood memories. As the oldest I would sometimes help my younger sister lace up her skates properly.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Morning Wolf Woman! Do you think we should have a secret paw wave??? LOL!

    Ahhh, then you know the terrain I was writing about. NJ can be spooky…it’s got a great pre-Revolutionary history, and lots of ponds and lakes…Skaking was something that just about everyone did….and I was the very worse skater around….had weak ankles and just hated it. Other girls (Lauren Hophener for one….my childhood nemesis) could skate rings around me….LOL! Yeah, bumpy ice…not smooth like a rink. That brings back memories. I never went to the rink in East Orange, but I know of EO. Relatives. We never got out of traded hockey skates, until my 16th birthday when my father brought me real white skates…and I still was lousy on them. My father always checked my skates…seems he was the one who did skate duty. At 19 I left home, with my skates and they were promptly stolen. Ahhhh. I still remember the smell and the look of them.

    Thank you, CS….fellow wolf…for writing and reading…I love your memories.

    Love, Jane


  9. TR Says:

    Hi Jane,
    A beautiful poem and that is a painful memory. I read that you are turning your memories into poems. That is wonderful and a way to heal from traumatic experiences. I find art, for me, to be that – take something awful, tragic and ugly and turn it into something beautiful. Your poem honours his life – that is something to be cherished. Hugs, TR


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi TR…something is damn wrong with my computer…or WP. I keep losing my own comments and it knocks me off the page…so if I miss something…know that I really appreciate your insightful comments here….

    Olsen’s Pond: some felt this too traumatic even to read, but others like yourself, understand. Poetry/ Well, we pick up life and make it into something poetic….and that comes mostly from the traumatic.

    This new book I am struggling to write…5 years so far in the process…”Memories of a Rotten Childhood” is all about memories and many of them unresolved. When we realize that we are ACONs, and that there is so much crap unresolved and will never be…and of course, we can’t change the foo circumstance at all….well, we struggle to make sense of it…as you well know. Perhaps poetry is that shortcut into it… Art…well, that is harder for me….but when you are doing so, it is therapeutic, and you know the results…they go deep.

    Thank you so much for your comments, TR…sometimes I feel I am writing in a howling wind. Not many comment but many do read. I learn not from the praise, (that’s nice!) but from what people tell me of their own experiences….that commonality of it all…of life.

    Hugs, jane


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