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Kali Lightfoot’s kindergarten teacher told her parents that Kali had “a well-developed sense of beauty and can skip with both feet.” This proved prophetic for a life that has included earning a masters degree in physical education, teaching, serving as a wilderness ranger, managing educational travel for Road Scholar, providing body-oriented psychotherapy, founding the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, and then earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing, specializing in poetry. Kali got sober at 40 and came out as queer. Poetry makes her happy, and she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, a place of beauty, absurdity, and many wonderful poets.
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Kali Lightfoot lives in Salem, Massachusetts. She worked as a teacher, wilderness ranger in Washington state, executive at Road Scholar, and most recently as founding executive director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. Lightfoot earned an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies and been nominated for Pushcart Prizes by Lavender Review and Poetry South, and Best of the Net by Star 82 Review. Kali received an honorable mention in the SFPA Speculative Poetry Contest, and she has written reviews of poetry books for Broadsided Press, The Hopper, and Solstice.
Kali Lightfoot’s debut collection is deeply felt and resonant. Lightfoot turned to poetry after several careers, ranging from psychotherapist to forest ranger, and the poems testify to a long life exceedingly well lived. All of these past lives are explored with great panache in her poetry, and one finishes reading her with the conviction that she has at last found her truest calling in the making of verse.
In Pelted by Flowers, Kali Lightfoot carries us through a full, rich life populated by people, places, and experiences we come to know: a “drunken fucker” of a grandfather with “a girl—in every town”; Lake Michigan thunderstorms we see, smell, hear, feel; painful throes of adolescent self-discovery; mature lesbian relationships; appreciation for a grandson, hands sticky with ice cream. In always vivid language, she transports us to a church supper with “forkfuls of lemon pie” and carries us into the wild, where she, a ranger, spends weeks alone or with groups, waking in tents, feeling “damp in our bones.” This book is a lovely sweep through an existence often “pelted by flowers,” finally achieving a readiness for the letting go, a well-earned acceptance, in her final contemplation, of what comes next: the becoming “as dust drifting on a solar wind.” As I put down the book, I experience a sigh of contentment, as if I, too, have just been pelted by flowers.
—Laura Foley, author of Why I Never Finished My Dissertation
The apples will not care
that I didn’t walk this morning
or never learned a second language
or read Proust
or was not a better supervisor.
Knowing that atoms of my body come from stars
that died five billion years ago
and will be available
five billion years from now in some other body
or drop of water
or apple lying in the orchard path
is oddly comforting.
Red and purple sunsets from the bluff above the pond
or Katahdin on a full moon night
or “Silent Night” sung by candlelight
or the smiles of my grandsons
will be of no consequence to a drop of water.
I will be as dust drifting
on a solar wind,
and planet, untroubled and unconscious.
This much-worried, much-loved life—
atoms strewn across a galaxy of galaxies.
Donkey Riding on Lesvos
This little beast, forty-five in human years,
carries me without complaint. Rhythm
of four feet, strange at first, beats
counterpoint for the two feet I’m used to.
Teetering on the scrap of saddle, I finally
square without thinking, rocking in time
to sounds of her hooves on hardpan trail.
No jets scream overhead—in fact
no motors at all compete
with the wind, or the shouts of Ares,
the drover: Ela! Ela! Annabelle, ela!
with burr of tongue and lips that seem
to say I see you munching flowers
there! Get back to work. I suspect
he chirrups at us as well: Ela! Ela!
Sit straight, to the front, hold the reins!
We could be walking anywhere
in time, among a thousand shades
of green that stretch across once-violent
hills to the Aegean. Ghosts of invading
Turks or Persians might even now
be standing under olive trees below us,
swords raised, waiting for our swaying
line to blunder into reach.
Annabelle, oblivious to my imagined
dangers, plods along unconcerned, dreaming
of tasty blooms. Her ears snap at Ares,
his chirps, and showy irritation.
Released by rhythm of hooves and voice,
my mind reaches lazy over a gate,
finds the latch and floats above
a garden, green hills, olive groves, the sea.
Pelted by Flowers
Pub date – April 6, 2021
Trade paper – 6 X 9″
Emerging Voices – Poetry
5 Horizon Road, #2403
Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024
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