Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

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In the Poet's Spotlight for March 2008:  Patsy Anne Bickerstaff

Patsy Anne Bickerstaff graduated from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Westhampton College and a Juris Doctor from the T.C. Williams School of Law, and has studied creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, The Richmond Visual Arts Center, and the University of Richmond.  She has two adult sons, two grandchildren, and lives in Richmond, Virginia.  While pursuing a career as attorney and, later, an Administrative Law judge, she wrote, with collaboration from her late husband, a mocktail recipe book, Alcohol-Free Entertaining (Betterway Press, 1986) and individually, a chapbook of poetry, City Rain (Librado Press, 1989).  Since her retirement, her most recent poetry sequence, Mrs. Noah’s Journal has been published by San Francisco Bay Press in 2007, and was nominated for the Library of Virginia book award.  Her chancel dramas, The Bystanders, Reflections in an Innyard, and Zacchaeus and the Citizens of Jericho have won awards and have been published and produced in numerous locations in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States.


Ms. Bickerstaff was awarded the Robert Penn Warren Award of the Cumberland Poetry Review.  She has received numerous awards from the Poetry Society of Virginia, the National League of American Pen Women, and several other state poetry societies and organizations.  Her poetry has appeared in over one hundred poetry journals, reviews and anthologies, nationwide and internationally.  Her creative non-fiction has also won awards from the Virginia Writers Club and has appeared widely in publications.


She is the current president of the Poetry Society of Virginia and a former president of the Virginia Writers Club.  She has facilitated poetry workshops in Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia, and has presented readings and workshop events in schools, libraries, galleries and churches throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Patsy Anne Bickerstaff is listed in Writers in Virginia (Virginia Commission for the Arts), Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in American Law, (Marquis) The International Who’s Who of Poetry (Europa) and Poets and Writers.

Index of Bickerstaff's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Patsy Anne Bickerstaff (below)  © copyright Patsy Anne Bickerstaff, All rights reserved.




The story goes,

a newcomer in Heaven asks

about a man chained to a post.

"One of those fool Virginians," Peter snorts,

"If we don't chain him, he'll go home."

He would go home to Richmond spring, dogwood blushing,

grandiflora buds like vessels of cream

set by the porcelain capitol,

St. John's quivering with Henry's echo,

Poe's ghost touching his mother's stone,

horseback heroes, corner flower-stands;

home to summer on rivers and ocean,

mossy-musty scented Tappahannock, Deltaville,

music-box bubblenotes along the Piankatank,

Tangier accent like sea-smooth glass.

sunrise gull-cries, surf-hymns;

home to Arlington nights, lightsparkle towers cloudglow high,

streets like jeweled bracelets dropped in dark;

to October dancing Shenandoah Valley,

tossing apple-spangled gypsy shawls down the Blue Ridge,

over shoulders of white clapboard villages

laughing in goldglaze;

or Bruton Parish Christmas,

candleshine on snowfall in memory-corners,

newborn nation's carols, carrying promise

up long starhalls to forever.

Virginia permeates being: perfume of peanuts, tobacco,

tastes of Brunswick, Smithfield, Hanover,

song that remembers

the color of hands that built her,

clanging steelship giants, moving proud as duchesses,

shapes and textures of farmers' market, county fair.

O God, that chain

had better be strong.



First published in Showcase magazine, as winner of the Blue Ridge Writers’ Guild


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No girl is pretty at almost thirteen,

Her hair all wrong, big feet, new breasts too small,

Standing too plump, short, gangling-thin or tall.

Young brothers criticize, and can be mean.

His face mud-stained, jeans torn, hip pockets full,

He slammed the screen, and tossed his football down.

As Mother buttoned my blue velvet gown,

He stopped, and murmured, "Blonde and Beautiful!"

Not Goldilocks, but Venus, Guinevere,

Or Princess Grace, was what he seemed to see.

Two words, and childhood's cruelty lay shattered.

That dance is long forgotten; I still hear

The first time someone said those words to me.

It was the only time that really mattered.



Published in Cumberland Poetry Review, having been awarded the Robert Penn Warren

Award by judge Richard Wilbur in 1995.

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All night, a plush muzzle, filigree rack

quartered in cross-hairs;

incessantly, he reasoned

how age and winter show less mercy

than shells' coup de grace;

how God gave man dominion;

how fine a trophy he would have;

how scared he was.


Twisting up Forty-Two through Highland to Monterey,

coffee-warm darkness in the Jimmy

crackled with uncles' laughter.

Silent, he fingered roughness

of the canvas cover

on the Second Shotgun.

Maybe there would be no deer;

maybe he would miss.

"No way," the voice inside him sneered.


At his stand,

he watches morning

fade black to purple,

silver blazing gold, melting liquid blue;

arrowhead of ducks splitting winds aloft;

foliage glowing cinnamon and amber;

wide sleek reach of a red-tailed hawk

skating the sky, scanning for breakfast.


"I can if I have to," his mind repeats;

he leans on a branch, listens

to its creaking complaint;

a beetle's pale scratch on its bark;

tock! of acorns dropping;

squirrels waking, gossiping;

crows' boasts;

mountain mockingbirds' travel chatter.

He strokes the stock,

traces artistry of woodgrain,

imagines faces: his father's, and the buck's.


Breath-stopping sound:

papery leaves whisper

under halting steps.

Sunlight catches copperflash; brush shivers.

Like Abraham's ram

the sacrifice appears, metallic feathers

refracting dark rainbows,

coalspark eyes glittering insolence, glaring,

daring him.

A thud in his shoulder, burst of noise and plumage;

he takes his prize.


After the field dressing, tying and trussing,

after the checking in, pictures

with the turkey feet up, its wings open fans,

the uncles are talking next year.

"I reckon next year I'll play football."

Bolt-struck, his father draws quick breath

at quiet, independent words.

He grins, remembers

helping renovate a Packard

while game taunted from woodsedge.

They are so like in their difference.  "Football is good."

Their eyes exchange unspoken thanks

for unspoken gifts.

"Yeah.  Football is just fine, Son."



Published in the 1993 Anthology of the Poetry Society of Virginia

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     From Mrs. Noah’s Journal



It will be sad enough, without the friends

Whose laughter graced the ordinary tasks

Of weaving, milking goats, and making bread,

Who shared their garden fruit, and scraps of news:

Grandbabies, recipes, and harmless jokes,

Some secrets, not so nice.  I understand

God’s anger, looking in their hearts.  But still....

Since God does not hear women, give my thanks

To Him, for letting us bring all our sons

And those dear girls they married.  Had He said,

"Leave one, and take the rest," I would have stayed.

Much as I love you, I could not survive

Such heartache, through the terrors we must face.

Hear me or not, God knows my breaking point.


Are all the stalls secure?  We have a chore

With feeding, cleaning, grooming, mucking out,

And we can do it all, with love and faith,

But not with scratching, scrambling, fights.  One cat

Can strip the world of gerbils for all time.

I dare not ask if that would be so bad;

God’s will is otherwise.  Who knows what beasts

Will take His purpose into endless years?

He gives His trust to us, to care for them.

Who knows what we shall mean to His new world?

Who knows how one just man, good in God’s eyes,

And I, your little nameless gerbil-wife

Shall be envisioned in some future time?

Let them remember only that we loved.


Have you been told where we shall live?  I trust,

But wonder.  We can learn the mountain life.

I used to like that village by the lake,

Its pretty cottages, its beach.  It will be gone....

Will someone find it, in another age?

The rain can come.  I think we are prepared.

You have the beasts; I saved some bulbs and seeds

To plant a garden-plot, and I suspect

Another little Japheth on the way.

Oh, I had other plans....but all with you.

There will be rainbows, and there will be mud,

And blessings from God’s hand.  For His own sake

The centuries will celebrate your name.

"Grandmother" will be name enough for me.


Published as an award-winner in The Raintown Review


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Come back each month and discover the work of other poets to be featured in the "Poet's Spotlight."


Website Donated in memory of Julia May Chase, Poet