After graduating from Smith as an art history major, Carol Stevens Kner took a job at Doubleday & Co., Inc. commissioning technical illustrations for Anchor Books. In 1963, she joined the staff of PRINT magazine, subsequently becoming managing editor. She also wrote articles about artists and their work, and about prevailing currents in graphic design. She has written articles for the Encyclopedia of World Art, Connaissance des Arts, and the New Book of Knowledge. She left PRINT in 1997 to pursue an interest in writing poetry. Her poems have been published in Western Humanities Review, The Paris Review, Heliotrope, North American Review, Connecticut River Review and Southwest Review.
Seeking Redemption on the Treadmill
"Though none of the enclosed has proven right,"
the letter says, "we wish you all success
in your ongoing work…" The pipe-dream dies-
the book tour vanishes; the interview
with Charile Rose is cancelled. I renounce
the muse and reclaim private life, put on
my Nikes, jog off to the gym in search
of virtue, endorphins, oblivion.
Three sets of free weights and the thigh machine
propel me to the treadmill, Walkman primed
with Bach- BVW 199-
to drown the blast of the gym’s radio.
It seeps through anyway: A woman calls,
asks the DJ to dedicate a song
to Juan Carlos, her lover—no last names
because they’ve both been married for some time—
not to each other. My conscience, Lord,
is wracked with pain, the walkman interjects
profound despair. The phrase ends letting in
Juan Carlos’ song: "I want no othuh lovuh,
I put nothin’ above ya…" The music
and the sweaty hulk on the next treadmill pound
while the cantata’s penitent intones,
Bowed low, beloved God, and full of rue,
I know my guilt. The radio croons through
a rest, "We’re happy, it’s a fact. Can’t
nothin’ hold us back…"
My ritual half-hour
on the machine winds down, and I rejoice
just as Bach’s sinner finds his grace
in the Lord’s sacrifice. The final chord
yields to the ambient electronic haze.
Outside the locker room, I meet a friend
who earnestly presents me to her coach,
claiming that I’m married to a "perfect man,"
and raised great kids. "The family dog is one
great dog," she adds, while I, at last proved right,
stand by in a serene post-workout glow.
But the loudspeaker argues on, "Don’t want
to say I’m sorry, cuz there’s nothin’ I’ve
done wrong…" Juan Carlos still has miles to go.
Published in The Dark Horse, the Scottish-American Poetry Magazine, Summer 2006