Featured Poem: The American Dream

Karen L. Kirshner
Long Island Branch, New York


We pay for the choices we made in youth,
actions stemming from a presumption of immortality,
which, once played become crimes that haunt us
when future merges with present.


Strategic windows open to newly gained control
are skillfully shut by the aggressive current of age
as it slips its claws around youthful fantasies.
Age likened to the many branches of a deceptive rose bush
Winding themselves around a long stake
Seeming to look for guidance,
Upon closer inspection…
the thorns tear through the loving caretaker, as readily
as through a hostile interloper.


Age has not befriended me,
Like a blind and hostile rose bush, I may have planted,
Pausing to admire its superficial beauty,
It turned on me and swiped this grown child’s last hopes,
Tearing them from the tapestry of optimism,
Like threads from the clothing of an intruder.


While I sit pondering my sad and singular existence,
Debt and hard labor through books takes a shadowy form,
An enigmatic monster bigger than a bad dream, taps me on the shoulder, asking me to turn towards the spectacle.
In horror, I turn to distant symbols I thought were within reach
Move further away, beyond my grasp,
Gradually facing, and sinking, tens of thousands of dollars,
A Mercedes-Benz country house, life partner, and 2.5 children,
All of it previously etched on a promised stake
Labeled “The American Dream” is lodged somewhere at the bottom
Of a mythical abyss, linking this world to another,
A Bermuda Triangle of childhood treasures lost
in the adventure of growing up.


I paid dearly to follow the dream.
Now I trespass on the edge of the abyss,
Tearfully grasping the nearest means of support,
The branches of a rose bush,
All thorns tearing into my palms
Wounded and bleeding, relentlessly
I search for the missing symbols.


“Kinetic,” (aka “Chaos”), by Karen L. Kirshner, 2017



  1. Karen, Your poem is powerful and rich with visual and visceral metaphors. Your painting is vibrant and the energy and bright colors left me with a more hopeful finish. Thank you for sharing your two artistic offerings with us!

  2. Kelly J. Powrll says

    So ripe and full of promise. The two pairings are so wonderful. Love k

  3. Tracy Lanum says

    Dear Karen,
    Your poem and painting spoke volumes to me, as if I were the one writing this thorny poem as life stretches on. Thank you.

    • I appreciate that my poem was meaningful tobyou. It seems relevant today with the outcry about the burden of student loans, which is what I had to Indore when I got my MBA. Fortunately I paid the loans off and was able to live again. But it is a struggle that should not be. Healthcare should be a given for everyone who is a citizen of the United States, and everybody should be guaranteed a place to live. I was just speaking with the woman tonight who’s daughter is so saddled with student loans she is working two and three jobs to pay them off. And she’s not working full-time jobs because they don’t want to pay her health insurance. Fortunately I have health insurance but for the majority of Americans in that situation these young people are seeing their dreams dissipate.

  4. Hi Karen,
    Your poem and painting ring true to me.
    I feel we are in the midst of s depressing time –
    I always felt secure in my existence but as I get older – I begin to see the flaws around me –
    the American Dream has disappeared.
    Your words and painting depict the chaos around us.
    PS. I am originally from Long Island. Went to Hofstra !

  5. Liliana Luppi Dossola says

    A heartfelt, poignant cry of dispair.
    Grabs the heart.
    An energetic beautiful painting.

  6. Barb Whitmarsh NLAPW says



  7. WOW! Thank you so much for publishing my pome and painting!