Catharine Otto

Phoenix Rising

Eloquently a fan is spreading;
a façade of bravura
covers the face—
exposing only the eyes.
“Is it me?”
the eyes inquire.
Mockingly the curves of light
smile around their pupils--
sighs a barely uttered reply.

A dead piano lies in the center of the room—the only object.
Its thwarted music
reverberates continuously through my heart.
Mute and motionless the sounds
lay dead to collect dust.

The dormant emotions lie.

Suddenly I am awakened—am playing—
the music is revived.
Thus the ghosts arise, and each in turn,
beg a dance with me.

They tear me wildly between them in a frenzied game,
jealously frantic until--
the music stops.

Round me last wispy echoes
spinning a black vertigo…

Anonymous monsters need not cower in the dark.

I name them, one by one—
acknowledging the relation.

They are legitimate fears, relations, all of them:
My sisters and brothers
I have locked up in a closet—
the byproducts of my parents’ thwarted union.

I meet them only at night—
to give them fuel to live by. (I am their daily sustenance.)

Soon we shall meet in the light of day,
where their insidious influence may no longer sway.
And the sun and I can watch them die:
as vampires die under the lighted sky.


A snowflake lands,
frozen; piercing,
as it is melting—
still bleeding—me.

A snowflake for a song:
cells exchanging shape as
notes can exchange place on the score,
composing into the final whole, while the former

Snow saturates my hair,
fantastically permeates
not only my skin but my skull—
trickling through the hollows
in my brain to awash
the somatosensory cortex, then seep into the limbic
to my hypothalamus, throne of hormones.

Like water is a poem—
mutable; impregnable.
Could then searing fears,
Searing tears,
feel like a melting snowflake
sliding iceburn
through my brain?



It begins:
A fleeting mental ripple
Arising and subsiding in the pool of my mind.
Surges of electricity that do not belong,
Displacing my consciousness as though mere liquid—
My mind seeping away from me as I try to catch it in vain.
The futility of trying to grasp my thoughts
And hold them down tightly by the corners like a blanket flowing on the wind--
Ruining a sunny picnic or day at the beach…
Sometimes, I sway and swerve, hitting the side of the wall---almost as if pushed.
Though I essay to resist,
The ineluctable progression finds my body in a chair and my brain very elsewhere.
Witnesses wonder: Am I here or there? Drugged or drunk? Awake or sleep?
(Do I wake or sleep? Yet the only thing that has fled is my mind, not the music.)
With my eyes open I dream.
Complex partial seizures: An inglorious disease.



There is bleeding inside of me.
 A need…
Gnawing at my very fiber and muscle,
The fibroids bleed.
Whenever my heart is weeping,
My uterus enjoins in chorus,
A sotto voce.
If singing is praying twice,
Then what is bleeding—self-sacrifice?
Such futile flow—with nowhere to go.
My womb seeps blood;
As my eyes weep tears,
And my soul weeps fears.
Yea, verily, my heart seeps its unmet needs
Like true blood thick and red;
Unless it stops,
I could soon be dead.


I have walks
    in which
the epiphany, the most hallowed encounter,
    is with
the splendid stark verdure
of a holly berry leaf,
carving out its space             
     in the world
with audaciously sharp delineations. 

The soothingly cool moisture in the air
recalls me to fleeting times without care;
the feigned spring’s languid wind
carries piquant yet anachronistic scents
of new grass; turned earth; 
late roses and marigolds,
all bathed by the golden, diffused sunlight 
          of Autumn.

 In Autumn, I sense
 the gentleness of a promise born pellucid in the air,
 a portent of good fortune.
An atmosphere exuding a yearning, a quickening,
a hope that fulfillment is just beyond, in the morrow, 
in the morn:
        enticing me.

As now I emerge from a cocoon of sleep,
        these days reappear like the ghost of a dream,
                         beckoning me to begin to believe….



presto,  Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”

The sound of bound fury flying,
Of ribbons of sound like threads of alarm
flying,  flying--!
Madness in a coil:
The cry of the soul’s striving
Thwarted by propriety,
Of will checked by reason,
Yet undying self-determination.
Of pure life force caught in
The symbolic maze of a French formal garden,
Desperately trying to find its way out.

The sound of life caught in a lie.
Of flesh caught in corsets,
Of passion prevented from circumstance,
Of true love forbidden by the lust
Of soulless marriages of greed and convenience--
All dancing within circumscribed boundaries.
The sound of Europe reaching—breaching,
And the resolution, the sure certain stride of the violin’s last breath,
Resolving so majestically on the note of G;
Life’s music and the music of life,
Resounding so proudly
To escape its chains.

Copyright © Catherine Otto 2013


Catharine Otto is a writer, Reiki Master Teacher, classical soprano and visual artist. Her poems have appeared numerous times in various journals, including Decanto, The Tower Journal, Avocet, the former NeoVictorian/Cochlea, and Today’s Spiritual Woman, the latter of which also featured her comprehensive article on the healing benefits of Usui Reiki. In expression of her love of the written word, Catharine earned a degree in English Literature and was inducted into Lambda Iota Tau. She has performed in opera, oratorio, and church choirs, and has had artwork exhibited in her home state of Pennsylvania. Utilizing both her professional experience in music and her experience as a visual artist, Catharine essays to imbue her poems with both a rich musicality and memorable images. Currently, in addition to her other pursuits, she is putting the finishing touches on a full length volume of poems.