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Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

About the Poet
Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. She has published five books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and has two other manuscripts near completion.

Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear in numerous magazines, including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate.

Her awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia.

In 2010-2011 she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with Claudia Emerson on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate literary works, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Virginia.

Carolyn also works as a visual artist. Her paintings have been widely exhibited in art shows.

For more information about the poet, visit her Wikipedia page or go to

Fall 2012 Poems »
Excerpts: Murals

In 1923 Diego Rivera began painting 124 frescoes on three floors of the Ministry of Education building in Mexico City. These murals reflect the Mexican people at work, their land, struggles, triumphs, and festivals. Rivera longed for a day when everyone would exist in harmony, without class distinctions.

• Night of the Poor
As a girl, I slept on the street
in a cardboard box. At four,
I learned how to beg.
If I spied a well-dressed señora leaving
the market, a loaf of bread
tucked under each arm,
I lowered my eyes and pleaded,
Pan fresco. Fresh bread, por favor,”
my pudgy legs no match
for the fit limbs of the tall lady.
I glanced toward the sun for luck,
the giant disk, burnt orange.
On a good day I’d wave coins
above my head, drop them into
my mother’s palms like piñons.
María, Madre de Dios,” she’d bless me
and tell me to feel proud.
At night, surrounded by family,
I’d curl up in Mama’s arms.
Stars covered me with bougainvillea,
and as I dreamed, the pink
petals became adobe bricks, walls
and windows of the house
my father had promised me
when I turned seven. Cherries trickled
down from the heavens. I plucked one
and wished time would stand
still so I could watch my parents
and brothers enter the new home,
which opened onto a corridor
of doors. “Don’t wake,” I told myself
as voices from the real houses
grew louder.
On the sidewalk where I slept,
the noise passed over
like a choir of angels.
• City Festival, Day of the Dead
Strumming tunes, we swing high
above the crowd and click
our heels in a festive salsa.
A farmer and revolutionist strut
beside me. We call ourselves
The Dancing Calaveras.
From the stage, we see it all—crooked
bankers, heady poets, campesinos
in town for a good time.
Behind a food stand, an Indian woman
in frilly yellow serves revelers
pulque from a large red jar.
Another in pigtails grills tacos
while merrymakers, bleary-eyed, stare
into space as if their pricey
pearls, dresses, heels hadn’t landed them
the high-rollers they’d hoped for.
Tonight carousers will entice
our souls to come alive—candies,
bottles of tequila placed on graves,
lit-up like altars.
Wearing skeletal masks, they
should learn from us.
No one pulls our strings.
This fancy music’s not for them, but for us—
los muertos, who nourish on trinkets
and bread offerings
that bring us back once a year
to let the living know
we are worth something.


The ringing like a claw starts,
a sequestered racket
that hisses in sleep
and hums in a spring-fed swamp,
spatterdock’s clair de lune hearts
bobbing like vessels.
Easing my kayak beyond the stream’s
fringe, I paddle through
the after-hush of dusk.
Feverish, the stars. The moon coy
above a quilt of clouds,
the wetlands in an uproar—
owls, raccoons, minks sounding
an alarm as jarring as a howl
in the hoarse throat
of night. The feathery dark swells
to a crescendo, a choir
of spring peepers
in search of mates. Lowering
my head, I count the times
their vocal sacs fill
and empty, these cross-bearers
olive-green, tan and gray,
colors I see every time
my ear whistles. The din—
the maddening noise—calms
among the scent
of half-opened cow lilies,
seductive in these elusive
O canopy of bald cypress,
sycamore, sweetgum,
dance for me
until my hearing heals
in the defining hour,
windless, serene.


The Deltaville Tornado
—April 16, 2011
The sanctuary battered,
shards of stained-glass
heaped in patterns
like an ancient code, the blues,
violets, noble lead strips
silenced in dead air.
Not a hint of eloquent bells,
the steeple overturned
in a parking lot.
The pastor and his wife huddled
on a floor as winds toppled
the church, leaving
hope intact above the altar—
a painting of Jesus clothed
in spiritual purples
and whites—the snapped-off pines
in the distance: translucent
in setting sun.
There is no pattern to the path
of a twister churning
across a peninsula.
No pattern to the fury,
a numbing rumble,
a cottage blown
into a creek. No pattern
to the litter’s trail,
a local bank check
retrieved eighty miles away.
No pattern to the heaving
gusts, hymnals
in a Baptist Church cast like dice.
No pattern to salvation,
not one Deltaville
resident funneled from earth.
No pattern to the remarkable:
the unscathed portrait
of Christ standing on a riverbank,
the sky celestial, his arm
raised in a blessing.


~ Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
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