Resting Places

Let’s speak of life, he says,
of breath and heartbeats.
But I can only think of dying—
no, not dying, but after the dying,
after the great questions
have all been posed,
after the immense darkness—
that some call light—
has been not only faced
but swum through,
and what is left is only biology,
the weight of the organic matter
that presses to the earth when dreams
and air no longer inflate it.
To dust you shall return
the holy texts warn or promise,
and so, determined, we strain
muscles and touch real soil to prove
at least this one sermon true.
To dust, and worms,
and compost and tough roots
tugging at clumps
of mud, you shall return,
we return you now. We tuck you into
that cold earth and cover you with
heavy humus blankets,
and now the day is over.
Now, the day is done.

My brother’s young body,
skinny already
from too much chemo,
too little appetite,
was buried in the cold earth
of a Canadian prairie.
It was May, the ground
still barely thawed
from the long winter,
the grass still brown,
those few dark branches
still bare.
I don’t remember
watching the box
that held his bones,
his translucent eyelids,
his narrow fingers,
being lowered into that dark hole,
but I imagine the scene now
as unbearably stark,
the square lines of the
white church surrounded by fields,
those small grave stones
lined up in rows,
German hymns sung
by faltering voices.
This is the anthem of brokenness:
Farmers and housewives
sending words of stubborn religion
up to a silent sky,
while they watch the land they cleared
for wheat and canola
swallow their fiercest love.

The Rainmakers

There are those who tell their thirsty children
that lightening is a bird, those whose language
makes no distinction between the fish eagle
with its neck flashing white
and the electric lines that shatter the night sky,
cracks for water to finally seep through.
There are those who throw the ground hornbill,
that unsettling feathered creature with its human eyelashes,
into a pool of water to bring the rainy season
when the wait has gone on too long.
There is a man who hides in a windowless hut
for three days before the skies open
and the deluge begins. He spends those days
finding his way back into the tao, and once there,
the separation between him and the cloud particles,
the currents of air, disappear, and rain making
is no longer a magic art but a generous thought.

I don’t know if it’s possible
to appreciate the ancient rituals
of calling the rain if you live
in a place that has never known dry.
But when the grass is brown
and the beautiful ferns have
long given up their instinct for greening,
when cows are dying and the children
are next and there is no tap
you can run to, no money you can spend
for one more litre of life,
then the stories you hear of rain dances,
sacrificial birds, tales of clever children
and wizened crones who somehow
break open the skies,
please the right gods, wring water
from the clouds, these stories
become more urgent than the morning news,
your prayers turn to the mythmakers.

A (Free) Novel for You…

After a long stretch of silence in this space, I’m so happy to let you know that I haven’t, in fact, been completely unproductive or uncreative these last few months. I’ve actually been working on a number of projects that I can’t post here, trying to enter some new poems into contests (that I can’t post here), and, most exciting of all, finishing my first novel!

Thanks to those of you who have been faithfully reading chapters of Being Ilia as I posted them. I’m sorry for the lapses of time between chapters. It is now officially finished and available in its entirety online- for free!

So, if you’re looking for a light-hearted, hopefully entertaining, book to read this summer, I offer you, with gratitude and humility, Being Ilia. You can read it online on this site (chapters linked below and above in the menu bar) or download the PDF version here:

Being Ilia – Kirsten Penner Krymusa

(I can even send you a Kindle or ePub file if you’d prefer that. Let me know).

Thanks for reading and for all your support!

Being Ilia

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four


Dark Matter

You have to wonder
why this dusty piece of gravel,
falling through a corner of the cosmos,
holds so much magic, so much
life force. Others have wondered it
first of course, why all that dark space,
all those universes, and here of all places,
suddenly sunbirds and coral reefs,
waltzes and Matisse.
Surely, if it is an accident of the chaotic matter,
a coincidence of heat and electrons,
it is the most gorgeous,
the most outrageous mistake.

But even as I write these words
a streaky seed eater, feathers ruffled
from the morning rain, eyes a shining darkness,
lands on the chair beside me, dares me
to call her hollow bones, her pulsing heart,
an accident of cosmic rubble. She turns
her head in sympathy at all my ignorance,
my pitiable conviction that space is empty.
Can’t I see the darkest matter is, in fact,
the sparrow’s eye?

This Season, the Book, and a Poem

The rainy season has arrived. After so much drought, so much dust and heat and depleted reservoirs, the rain has finally come. Most days it begins late in the afternoon. The clouds gather, the sky darkens, the birds and the leaves get restless. Phil and I, without ever discussing it, have made a commitment to brewing tea when the clouds start moving in, getting to the porch with our mugs in time to watch the first drops fall. We sit there, mostly in silence, drinking hot milky tea and watching the water stream down the banana trees, move like a blur through the valley, soak into our thirsty yard. I suppose it’s a boring way to spend the afternoon, sitting still in our own yard, not talking, not much happening. And yet, I already feel like I’m watching it from some future lifetime—maybe we’ll be back in Canada, busy with teenagers or new jobs or navigating an empty nest— and we’ll say, “Do you remember when we used to spend our afternoons drinking tea on the porch and watching the rain?” This one ritual will define so much, will define better than anything else, maybe, this sweet season.


It’s been nearly two months now since Georgette went live and public on Amazon. Thank you so much to all of you who have bought it and read it and told your friends about it. I’ve been feeling quite vulnerable about it all, and also quite astounded by the response. So many of you have said such kind things, have told me how it made you laugh embarrassingly in public places or recounted the anecdotes that you can relate to all too well. This is exactly what I hoped that small book might do— that in sharing our imperfect story with honesty, others might love their own little life a bit more, might notice the quirky or beautiful moments in their own days, or if nothing else, might laugh a bit at all my failed attempts at perfect mothering. I’m still trying to figure out what my next step is with the book, how much effort I should put into marketing or spreading the word. I thought I’d approach bloggers with it, but have found that process more daunting than I’d expected. Any advice you have— or suggestions of bloggers you think might be interested in reading and reviewing it—would be warmly welcomed.


For those of you who have been reading Being Ilia, I’ve put a few new chapters up in the last weeks, which I don’t believe show up as new posts in your inbox, but are on the site if you look for them. I’m sorry that getting those chapters out has been such a long process. I’m amazed at those of you who are still faithfully following dear Illy’s misadventures.


And lastly, my gift to you, which was a gift to me from the wise and wonderful Karith, is a poem from the poet Eaven Boland. Hopefully many of you have been reading her for years, but if, like me, you were never introduced to her work, I think you’ll agree, we’ve been missing something important.

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet
Eavan Boland, 1944

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city—

white paper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.


As always, thanks for being here.



If I could bring myself to believe—
without fear of self-absorption—
that what the mystics and poets say is true,
that the work which finds you happiest
is your great assignment of love,
is the calling that best shifts
the cosmic balances away from suffering,
then every morning I would find my way
to the winding circle of stones
under the eucalyptus trees.
I would bring a small broom, maybe a rake,
and I would tend to that labyrinth
with a monk’s devotion, clear leaves, carry twigs.
This would be my green and growing nunnery,
the weaverbirds and firefinches my holy sisters.
I would obey my vows with fervour,
with gravity. And then—if what they say is true—
creation would fly towards hope and wholeness,
buoyed by my singing heart.
What work has ever found me happier?
What work has summoned in you this secret song?

M is writing a novel, is passionate and committed. Every free moment that opens up she runs to the computer, dives back into her world of ghosts and empresses, translates French phrases, asks for help with spelling. I watch her devotion, jealous and amazed. Following all the advice of the best writers, she puts me to shame, has become my role model.

At the Indian Ocean, I watch Phil and the girls floating in the wide blue water. Their laughter carries across the wind, the sand, as they wrestle, splash, hold slimy sea cucumbers in their hands. There is no one else in sight, only their four dark silhouettes changing shape in the sparkling light.

We play volleyball in the living room with the red balloon J got from the dentist, set our dining room chairs in a long row to be the net, tease each other about our skills.

The girls have started making perfume. They pick flowers, rosemary needles, mint leaves, crushing each combination into colourful pulp. They gather all their most beautiful containers and jewelry boxes, fill them with the murky water of their concoctions, label them with poetic names. We smell each sample, buy them with one shilling coins, dab their earthy scent on our wrists. Weeks later I find containers of old flower petals in the fridge, being preserved for another (forgotten) sale.

J wants to bake meringues, flavour them with rosewater and lemon. She moves carefully through the kitchen, but I am impatient as I wash dishes, wipe up spilled egg yolks, watch my morning slipping away. Tears slip into the dishwater, and I don’t know if they are my frustration or my guilt at being frustrated. Later we savour the meringues, perfect, pale yellow and pink.

I am driving with a friend after dark when we see an animal, a mongoose maybe, but longer and fatter than any mongoose we’ve seen, run across the road through the beams of our headlights. It has the rich black and white stripes of a zebra, moves like water low to the ground, disappears in the bushes. We are both stunned, stumble over the words to best describe the mysterious creature.

I reach to turn on the shower water and jump back when a tiny baby gecko, shorter than my thumb, drops from the tap and into the bath. I try to direct the water away from it so it can scramble to safety, but a moment later am distracted when another identical gecko jumps from the curtain above my head and narrowly misses my shoulder. I laugh at my tiny scurrying shower mates.

Quantum Zeno Effect

 in which a quantum state would decay if left alone, but does not decay because of its continuous observation.

I read about quantum mechanics
and am compelled to write poems—
the observer effect,
quantum zeno—
each more beautifully hinting
at the movements of my own heart
than any religious creed.
I find this blurred border
surprising, a newfound kinship
with a community of minds
I’ve never met.

When I pray to a spirit that I cannot see,
but that I imagine dancing
between me and the rest of the cosmos,
I ask her to hold my heart
in her continuous observation
to keep it from decay.
I bow down in my solitude,
begging for the gift of
Zeno’s merciful effect.


Georgette: Writing and Mothering in an Old French Cottage by [Penner Krymusa, Kirsten]

Georgette: Writing and Mothering in an Old French Cottage is a memoir about the summer our family lived in- you guessed it- an old French cottage. The summer was a few years ago, so those of you familiar with Nairobi these days will find some of the references baffling. (It really wasn’t that long ago that Lindt chocolate and pre-made spaghetti sauce didn’t exist on Nairobi shelves). But the bigger things- the joys and sorrows of parenting, the challenges of pretending to be a local in a foreign country, my embarrassing procrastination habits- these things are as true today as they were that bumbling, beautiful summer. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Purchase Georgette (or at least read a free sample) at amazon_logo_RGBAnd if you read it, please do let me (and the world) know what you think by leaving a review and telling your friends.

Many thanks. 


Prayer Flags

When I run out of prayers,
when the weight has become
too much–this weight of being
human, this experiment in
suffering–does God remember
all those prayers I said
when I was young, the claims
I made in youth groups,
around campfires, the reams
of holy words I wrote when
my babies were small,
or the grace whispered around
my mother’s pots of soup?

Did God gather those prayers,
like tattered squares of cloth,
in a basket by her side, ready
to pull them out now as she watches
my fragile thoughts, hears
so many nights of disappointed
silence, ready to string them
onto tender ribbon, prayer flags
to tether me still to her hands?