“Olsen’s Pond”





Returning to the old house,

now still, vacant,

staring with unshaded eyes

upon a snowy front garden,

shrubs overgrown with the

lustiness of summer

now split to the ground

taxed with a heavy snow.


I tried to light the parlor stove,

cranky old smoker

clanking and rattling

in the best of times

now given up the ghost,

cold metal unyielding to wadded paper

and an old mouse nest.


Now the silence of the rooms

broken by hissing wind

whipping around eaves

rattling old bones in the attic,

stirring the haunts asleep in corners.


It took time for twigs to catch

water turn to coffee

bacon, eggs brought from the city

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 numb from the cold

the woodstove not giving

more heat than an ice cube.


Walking down to Olsen’s pond,

Looking through the glassine surface

remembering the boy who had fallen

through while playing hockey

slipping under thin ice,

disappearing without a sound,

only noticed when our puck flew

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


We skated to the edge, threw bodies flat

trying to catch him just out of reach,

crying like babies, snot running down chins,

knowing he was floating just under the ice–

silenced like the lamb he was.


Childhood ended that day.

We drifted away to the city,

our skates and sticks put up,

Olsen’s pond deserted like a haunted minefield.


Fifty years ago I still remember

stretched as far as I could

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, 2017





Tags: , , , , ,

48 Responses to ““Olsen’s Pond””

  1. lynn__ Says:

    A tragedy frozen in time, in minds…so sad, very well-written. I’m assuming it’s true?


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Lynn…No, Lynn, it didn’t happen to me, but breaking through thin ice and drowning did happen in rural New Jersey when I was a kid back in the 60’s. Along with kids hanging themselves in barns. But something must have haunted me to write this so many decades later. These tragedies happen in rural areas all over our country.

    Thank you, Lynn, for reading and your comment. Have a good New Years Day.



  3. lynn__ Says:

    Thanks for your reply…and a happy new year to you!


  4. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    These lines brought chills:

    Now the silence of the rooms

    broken by hissing wind

    whipping around eaves

    rattling old bones in the attic,

    stirring the haunts asleep in corners.

    I sense and felt tragedy in your poem. Very powerful write.

    Happy New Year my friend.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Charliezero1. First thank you for reading and your comment. I wrote this a couple of years ago, and I post it at the first of the year. I have revised it, tightened it up over the course of a few years and I think that most of our poetry can be done so. However, I have received complaints from some readers who said that it ‘triggered sad memories’. I understand but that shouldn’t keep us from writing these particular poems. I think that people who aren’t poets think poetry should always be ‘beauty and light’ but life isn’t that way. Tragedies abound, and perhaps our childhood has many of them. in any case, narrative poetry is a great medium to express these issues.

    Thank you, again, for reading and your comment. And Happy New Year to you, my friend.


    Liked by 2 people

  6. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    You make an excellent point.

    Us poets should write on what we actually feel and not make things as people want us to make poetry feel as light or beautiful. Reality is harsh and sad, its what us humans need to understand. Did I ever tell you that you are my favorite poet? You are. Thank you Jane for you always being you. 🙂

    P.S I posted my new poem for you to read. 🙂 Starting off the new year with a weird. 🙂


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Wow. Thank you. I am overwhelmed. No one, no poet has ever said that to or about me. Hehehe! I am deeply flattered.

    Yes, well, if we don’t as poets, use the experience of our lives and what ‘wisdom’ we have acquired over our years, then we are missing the boat. I think poets have also a reason to lead and hopefully shape culture to better standards. Not all cultural issues are within our realm, but certainly we can do better than so much crap out there….My husband works in the movies. I am so disappointed in the vast majority of these things that are churned out. Many times they are done to appeal to low intellectual standards. It’s like this: keep the masses passive with no challenges. He just got a screen credit (a big thing in the movie business) for “Hidden Figures” a few days ago. It’s just come out and looks positive for numerous reasons. Usually movies feed us pap.

    I will come over and read on your site gladly tomorrow. I’ve been struggling with a doggie that got beaten up by 2 of my other dogs, and a crippled cat that I found a few days ago. He’s a hoot! He’s feral, but has many demands on me. LOL! Hoping that he has a broken pelvis and not something more drastic. Cage rest for the next two months, and plenty of massage and good food hopefully will make a difference in his young life. Vet says: put him to sleep, quality of life jazz. Well, I don’t believe in killing an animal that is not physically ‘normal’. He might have a wheel chair in his future, but he deserves to live. He already is communicating with me in his own demanding way. This Morning at 4am….I heard this horrible racket. He had defecated on his towel and was beating the sides of the cage for me to come and clean it up. (and him too….I think he is enjoying the sponge baths he is getting a couple of times a day.) He growls when I am not fast enough! LOL! I love that he has such a demanding spirit. He deserves to live but I am exhausted and it’s only the 3rd day. My future is full of cat mess and I don’t have to use a crystal ball to see this. Thank you, again.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Kathy Reed Says:

    Well where do I start?! Your writing suits me just fine as well. I have to say the story is very moving and although I didn’t experience the exact same thing, I did have a young friend drown by becoming entangled in seaweed under a pier kids jumped from. You gave this a classic eerie and yet familiar set of circumstances, the detail of snotty noses. All evoke such strong images for me. Love the old painting if ice skaters!


  9. petrujviljoen Says:

    Of course one can’t not write sadness because it upsets people. A lot of us would have to stop writing all together and what would then happen? The poem brought goose-flesh.


  10. Sumana Roy Says:

    you’ve created such a haunting piece…


  11. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you for reading and your kind comment.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    You’re exactly right. Rose colored glasses cuts poetry in half. It’s not reality mostly. LOL!

    Life is full of tragedies….for all of us. The point of being a writer/poet is to dig down and make something creative of these things when we are able. I’m hosting Haibun Monday Jan. 9th, and this will be an example (my submission) of something that was a horrible tragedy, and took me 56 years to even talk about. We find creative fruit in many things.

    Thank you, and forgive me for not visiting your blog in a timely fashion. I have a dog just out of surgery and have picked up a crippled cat (around 9 month old) who has a broken pelvis, etc….and takes a lot of attention and care right now. Some thing bad happened to this little boy, and he deserves better. He is responding, like waking me up at 4am by rattling his cage for my attention. LOL!


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Kathy! First, thank you for reading and your insightful comment. Oh! that tragedy of your childhood is just as moving. These things happen and they impact us for life…I have only recently started to exam these kind of things in my own life, and the pathos is build in and has to be handled carefully. Thank you again for reading and your comment. I’ve had that painting in my files for years and love it. It seemed to fit the poem. I grew up in the countryside where skating was a main entertainment for us kids, and I was the most rotten skater. Weak ankles I claimed, but I just never got the hang of it. Brothers played hockey and all I did was try to stay out of their whizzing way. Got hit in the back of the head by the hockey puck, and that ended my time on the ice. LOL!


  14. petrujviljoen Says:

    Give my love to the cat and dog. Be well. Look forward to Monday. What’s the theme going to be?


  15. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    This is such a tragic story, and the rural setting with the old wood stove enhances the feeling a new beginning that started with a tragedy.. The end of childhood with him slipping under the ice is such a different way to see something new that’s forced upon you.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Cat and dog doing well! Thanks for sending your love to them…they need it. Theme: childhood memories and experiences.


    Liked by 1 person

  17. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Bjorn. For me, the new beginning was when the other kids put up their skates and sticks….and this was the end of childhood. However, it’s all in the eyes of the reader.

    I want to say this though. This poem caused some controversy. Some readers said that it was a ‘trigger’ to them….and they didn’t like it because it made them remember things they rather forget. That made me think. What is the purpose of poetry, then? Do we avoid those works that make people uncomfortable? What is our responsibility to readers as poets? Or do we have any responsibility? Just something that I wanted to raise because I think that other poets have come across this issue before and sometimes these things make US uncomfortable as poets…and we don’t talk about this.


  18. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    As you know my poems are often about uncomfortable matters… war and hate… so I think we need to present matters as we feel them. Clearly there are poems that make me sad, angry or even uncomfortable… but to me poetry is in the eye of the beholder.


  19. ladynyo Says:

    I agree. However, my question is this: do we curtail our poetry because it makes readers (I’ve lost readers over the years because of this ‘uncomfortable’ issue) uncomfortable, or do we try to explain our reasons for writing this stuff? Perhaps I am too close to an argument right now. I am tired of explaining the ‘why’ in certain poetry I write. Some times I feel like telling people “just don’t read it.” Or grow up…or get some help with these ‘triggers’. LOL! Mostly these critics are family or close associates. Not poets. Perhaps I need to disengage from this fight. But the underlying issue is to me ‘what is our responsibility as poets to society in general? Are we supposed to impact culture ? Are we cheerleaders? I think of what happened in Soviet Russia where poets were manipulated into writing ‘propaganda’ and also this trend of ‘writing uplifting verse to help ‘heal’ society’. This was actually said to me recently. Bull Shit is my reply.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    The best poets of the world are extremely uncomfortable to read… but also gives direction.. I don’t want to be the poet lulling people… “healing” is a strange concept if it involves deceit..


  21. ladynyo Says:

    I think that’s part of the mass deceit in culture, and poets come in for it heavily…the criticism. I think our role, as poets, is to make people uncomfortable. To shake things up. But not to insult or destroy. We need to connect with the reality of most people’s lives. otherwise, hang your ‘soothing’ poetry on your bathroom wall.


  22. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    Your husband worked as a credit write for the movie (Hidden Figures)? how was his experience?

    I’m so glad to be friends here on WordPress and learning so much from you. 🙂


  23. ladynyo Says:

    Husband received a screen credit …it is in the stuff at the end where the credits, actors, etc. passes at the end of the movie. he said that the people he met there Pharnell Williams, Kevin Costner, etc. were really nice and came out to shake his hand. LOL! (actually the nicest people he ever worked with were Mick Jagger/Steve Martin and Anthony (can’t remember his last name….Hannibal character). Mick Jagger came out to sit on the curb to eat his sandwiches and shooed away his entourage. LOL! Steve Martin always kids around, with that arrow in his head, playing his banjo between takes….and he is really normal. So is Costner. Nice guys. He just got the screen credit the other night..people had to call him to tell him.LOL!
    he kept telling me the name of the movie, but I kept thinking it was Hidden Fingers….LOL! Hidden Figures. He worked for 5 months on Interview with the Devil, in New Orleans….and his sets were all burned down for the movie….on the docks scene in the beginning of the movie. I don’t watch many movies and so I have missed most of my husband’s work.

    I’m glad to being friends here on wp also, and also learning from you.


    Liked by 1 person

  24. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    That is so awesome! that your husband works for Hollywood. Wait, does your husband work at Hollywood? I would one day love to meet Mick Jagger and Steve Martin. 🙂

    Sounds like your husband has some cool and amazing stories to share with you. 🙂

    P.S Got another new poem up. This one will make your head spin. Maybe. 🙂


  25. ladynyo Says:

    He works here in Atlanta for Paramount, etc. Georgia has become a big movie churn out.
    he has a lot of stories but some can’t see the light of day. LOL! Production usually is gone before shooting starts, but some times not…and he’s usually called in for set crisis’s. So yes, he does have tales to tell.

    I will look at your head spinning poem as soon as I get dinner going and the cripple cat bathed. he gets more baths than I do!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. charliezero1.wordpress.com Says:

    Has your husband ever worked Marvel Studios? Or Warner Bros.? Has your husband ever meet quentin tarantino?


  27. Waltermarks Says:

    It took time for twigs to catch

    water turn to coffee

    bacon, eggs brought from the city

    cooked in an old iron skillet–

    tasting far better in the country air.

    I like that part in particular, though it’s not the main story. Being in an old quieted house, lighting a wood stove for both food and warmth. I’ve lived in an old deserted house like that, it takes me back, thanks


  28. Grace Says:

    This is a sad sad story and tragic loss of childhood innocence for the poor boy and those who knew him ~


  29. lillian Says:

    Amazing write. Might I add my two cents to your conversation with Bjorn. For me, poetry writing comes from my feelings, my head, my heart. Sometimes it is a trigger for me. When a reader “continues” with my poem….as in, it creates other thoughts, connections, reactions within the readers’ synapses….then I feel I’ve succeeded with my writing. Whether it;s a smile or a curse or a memory. I think the idea of not being “offensive” is a matter of politeness but does not involve “topics” that are emotional. I’ve come across some poems in my reading, where I am “offended” by the language or the specificity — well, “uncomfortable” might be a better word. No — “offended” is when I simply stop reading and recognize, this one’s not for me. That doesn’t happen very often. But, as a reader, I think it’s my right to simply just stop….I don’t think it’s my right to ask a poet to stop writing. Does that make sense? Some people have absolutely raw feelings from horiffic events and this is a horrible situation to be in. I’ve found, on occasion, that my words can encapsulate their feelings — rather than making them angry at me for bringing them up. Okay — too long of an explanation here. Final words — the meaning and reaction is in the reader. One can continue reading and explore those reactions more — or one can stop.


  30. C.C. Says:

    Everything tastes better in the country air…..it is one of the incomparable truths of life!


  31. Mish Says:

    Something I have always feared as my sons would play hockey in park ponds with their dad. Felt more secure when we made our own rink in the back yard.


  32. petrujviljoen Says:

    Thanks for mentioning the theme. Gives a bit of a head-start. Here’s some more love to the cat and dog. To many don’t get a chance to make it.


  33. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, I never understood why the theme was not given out before hand. Perhaps the hosts didn’t have one in mind? Well, so it goes, but I don’t hold with that. I think people should be given a running start. But, I’m not dverse, I’m just a sometime member. I am sure there is a reason for what is done. Willow (cat) is doing…ok…no real change, but it’s only been one week since I brought him home. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow and I worry about all the cats and dogs outside in the cold. Mia (dog) is up to her usual tricks…she’s recovering faster, but her injuries, though severe, were not like Willow’s. I really wonder what happened to him. Was he run over? I think he was either kicked violently, breaking his pelvis and left hid leg, (hip) or a dog tried to kill him. He’s flopping around when he tries to walk…no real normal gait. But we will keep working with him. THanks for asking….so many don’t give a damn.


  34. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you for reading.


  35. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you for reading.


  36. ladynyo Says:

    Agreed. Thanks for reading and your explanation on your feelings on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. ladynyo Says:

    Grace….but it ‘s not ‘true’…it’s a poem. People seem to have trouble realizing it’s not an actual event. It didn’t happen to me, but it does happen. But that is what we do…as poets. We take ‘events’, etc. and weave them into poetry. thank you for reading. Perhaps I should head this off with :this didn’t happen to me; it;s just a poetic attempt.


  38. ladynyo Says:

    You are welcome. I live in an 1880’s house, though not deserted…have been working on it for 40 years. It’s a money pit.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. petrujviljoen Says:

    Too, too many! I wanted to ask before for themes beforehand but was too afraid to ask. You seemed approachable so I did. Am thinking on it already and hope to deliver something readable. Childhood – so many things to say!


  40. Waltermarks Says:

    Ain’t it the truth. I was working on a ranch when I lived in mine. Made a dollar an hour less than minimum wage.


  41. ladynyo Says:

    yep, the money pits never pay well….just in delayed satisfaction!~


  42. ladynyo Says:

    Ask! Don’t be afraid, though people can seem intimidating. If you are a poet you have every right. At least that is the way I see it and proceed. And Childhood….yes, so many things to say. Hope to see you January 9th, for Haibun Monday!


  43. Raivenne Says:

    You know an incident as such really is forever frozen some child’s / eventual adult’s unfortunate memory. You tell it heartrendingly well.


  44. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Raivenne. yes, it’s something that will impact anyone that lived through it. Thank you for reading and your comment.


  45. petrujviljoen Says:

    I’ll be there. The hosts of Dverse work hard to present and maintain the site and stir participants’ imagination so another reason I didn’t want to burden them further. It’s just that sometimes it takes me a long time to come up with something presentable – being a newby writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. ladynyo Says:

    I understand deeply. I’m pretty new myself.


  47. Nan Mykel Says:

    I love it! So in tune with the emotions!


  48. ladynyo Says:

    Thnak you, Nan. Many didn’t. It disturbed them. But Robert Frost also can be disturbing. Poetry I believe should and does that. But that is just my opinion…not shared with everyone.


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