Poems by Kimberly Burnham

As a 28 year-old photojournalist, Kimberly Burnham appreciated beauty. Then an ophthalmologist diagnosed a genetic condition, “consider life if you become blind.” From devastating words, she forged a healing path and became a brain and visual health expert. Winner of SageUSA’s story contest with 2013 Cross-USA bicycle trip poetry, her publication credits include Healing Through Words; Music—Carrier of Intention in 49 Jewish Prayers; and Year of the Poet.

Vision Exercises

Wake from the dream
where you are falling
open your eyes
to the green world
where trees grow and shade
the people who plant them
believing in a better world
for the children

Wake from the dream
open your mind to neighbors
really see who they are
the ways you are the same
strengths you can learn

Wake from the dream
in the night when insights come
and beauty is just beneath the dark surface
sleep relaxed recovering
open your heart in the morning
visualize the day
one person can make

Wake from the dream
to places beyond
right and wrong
shades of gray
where you can give everyone
benefit of the doubt
see what is beneath the surface

Wake to the dream
of home
where you are possible

Thirty Days

Have you read each one written
a poem lovingly crafted
in haste late at night
as the muse strikes
in the light growing
as the sun rises

Each one meeting the challenge
floating out into the world
words and letters combined just so
have you read each one written

and felt the strength and strain
as the words are weighed and filters
a particular perspective
coming with the light
of each new day

Weaving the Journey

Ask me of the song and I will tell you…

Of whirling dervishes
spiraling hypnotically in Turkey
spinning mystical magic

Of Mormon hymns
so deeply engrained
bringing tears
of joy and emotions
so hard to explain

Of Jewish songs on the road
a journey carried on the wheels
of singers
bringing life to ancient feelings
and love

Of Temple bells
calling meditators
to ponder the mysteries
of the Green Tara
spinning mantras
into transformation

Each turn of the mandala
bring new insights
deeper inside
ways to look outward at the world
all around
moving changing adapting

The News
I didn’t listen
to the news today
to busy moving
buying shiny metal fixtures
for a little boy’s dresser
taking his older brother to soccer practice
unpacking dishes moved just this week
to the new house
picking out purple paint
for a little girl’s drawers
putting away
her older sister’s temporary cot
making way for the large white bunk beds
coming tomorrow
watering the green plants
sunlit in the bathroom window
I don’t know what else
is going on in the world
but here in Spokane
we are moving
enjoying the sun
set on a busy day

How Are You
As every cell listens

What am I saying as every cell
the choice is mine

What energy is behind the words
as I set the tone
for the rest of my day
the rest of my life

I feel great
ready to take on the world
full of challenges
and opportunities

sunlight traveling
millions of miles
finally reaching gratitude
warming skin and hearts
turning plants green with growth
showing the way
bringing color to life
thank you

The name expressing the essence
conjuring warmth in the darkness
fire in the soul
the long relationship
sunlight growth life
I hold precious
the natural world
created creating

Funhouse Mirrors
Have you ever been in fun
home with funny mirrors
you look tall, slender, right
next to mirrors making you short
and fat, or wavy,
drawing you out of focus
away from the short attention span?

in an undistorted bathroom,
that reflected image of your face,
landing on your eyeballs,
is filtered, interpreted, assigned
a meaning that may or may not have
as little to do with reality
as a funhouse reflection.

And yet our mirror neurons
look for the familiar,
ways to identify with others,
feel the truth in other’s words,
the flick of a wrist,
the twist of a smile.

Can you own yourself
in your story, or feel a woman
living her whole life
a few feet from her body?

Do you resonate
with the story you
are telling? As every cell
Is your story
friendly, inviting you home?

Do you know what motivates
you to share a hug
or push yourself away?



Love and friendship
just words
in the mouth of some
but true friends
do what they say
go way beyond
fulfill needs
expecting only kindness
in return

That is the beauty
there can be no return
can’t return friendship
you can waste it
or let it go by the wayside
unattended like crowded flowers
but it can’t be returned
like a pair of pants
that no longer fit

Pay it forward
into another’s life
build friendship
dig deeper
amidst chaos and stress
see the gleam
of friendship
for all around
it is precious

Dedicated to my friend Dana Levitt
Dear Stranger
I bicycled past your Montana home today
I wondered about your life
what it is that brought you here
or whether you have always been here
where I have newly come
soon gone on to the next town
on this three thousand mile journey

A worn wood and barbed wire fence
dividing me from you
the grass between us
shades of green, blue and yellow
where a long gravel drive way
winds from where I pause to wonder.

Your ranch style one story home
so different
from my yellow three story home
a world away in Connecticut
though both have a similar
pitch to the roof
to let the snow slide off
dark slate contrasting
the cream colored outer walls

I wonder in the heat of the summer
as I ride by what you thought
about as you sat by the fire
with snow covering the clumps of grass
two chimneys peaking up
into the blue sky
filled today with puffy white clouds
thin like a gauze veil

If you and I went out
into the evergreen and blue
tinged forest to cut some wood
would we have anything in common
would we argue about politics
farming and life

Or for a moment in time
as I paused my peddling
occupying the same space,
breathing in the same Montana air
feeling the breeze
would we wonder at the beauty around us
and find the common ground
where we are both at home


Spring rises
to frolic and play
sleeping eyes yields
surprise visions
light playing on my face
melting memories
kissing everything


Twist and Turns in Five Years

How do you predict
what do you want
your life to look like
in five years
really she means expect
when she asks
what do I expect
the future to look like

I look around
seeing people
who achieve life goals
a plan laid out
followed more or less

Considering my life
in five year increments
at 15 I would never have predicted
speaking Japanese
studying Buddhism
I knew where my life was headed

At 20 working in Canada
as a photographer
publishing in books and magazine
not even a dream
I was going to work
for Jacque Cousteau
on the Calypso

At 25 I thought I already had
my happily ever after
years later I still wonder
is this the one

At 30 Director of Vision services
in a large multidisciplinary clinic
a reality beyond belief
far far beyond
add in a PhD in Integrative Medicine
and it is really fantastical

At 35 falling in love again
moving to Colorado
I was going to work
in Connecticut forever

At 40 imagining working in Israel
was a possibility but not likely for me
like SCUBA diving in the Red Sea at Sinai
number 57 on my lifetime to do list
accomplished just days before
work in Tel Aviv on September 11th

At 45 leaving my brilliant teacher
I thought I would follow her
forever but life changes

At 50 bicycling 3000 miles
across the United States
yet here I am
with bragging rights

At 55 life in Spokane, WA
I wouldn’t have believed you
if you predicted
I would be step mom
to two sets of twins
and a soccer mom

Can’t imagine what
life will bring to 60
in a few years

The Birth of Compassion

Words “what you too?” unmasking likeness
we two hand in hand facing with courage
I thought I was the only one here in the darkness

Similarity and companionship at its finest
you and I rally each other when discouraged
words “what you too?” unmasking likeness

Mirroring each one seen priceless
sharing the baggage
I thought I was the only one here in the darkness

Finding common ground in oneness
never alone having to manage
words “what you too?” unmasking likeness

Together facing each crisis
no us or them rather a community package
I thought I was the only one here in the darkness

Sitting quietly as the sun rises
illuminating the path ahead forging collectively the passage
Words “what you too?” unmasking likeness
I thought I was the only one here in the darkness

If The Library Was Email

Love the library
it’s not my email
makes me smile at the thought
of walking in alone
or with small children

Lately I have taken to highlighting
all emails in my inbox
hovering over delete
then unchecking the one
I actually want to keep

Why can’t my email be
more like the library
where once a week if often enough
to learn and be entertained

If library were equal to email
whole sections of books would be
plastered in notes
words like
“the best book ever”
“your friend Ann recommends this book”
“read page 145 to lose weight now”
“check this out now”

And lots of effort
into cover, binding, and edge
each line written in different
colors and fonts
the librarian would know my name
and my list of key words
I would feel bad that I can’t read
every book

She would look over my shoulder
spy on my choices
beside each book would be a box
other books I might like
marked with colorful sticky notes
“moving? find the best way here”
the library would know everything
about me

I love the library because
free and subtle
roping in my favorite authors
like James Rollins
or books like Einstein’s Dream


She doesn’t remember
the last time
she moved
a six year old now
the earth has circled the sun
five times since then

Why are you hiding
the tea cups
she questions
as I wrap each one
carefully placing them
in the moving box

And I wonder what am I hiding
with this move
the remembered pain
of past moves
too many to count
so much stuff
I commit to having less
to hide
in future boxes

It is a lot of work to move
she says picking each colorful magnet
off the apartment fridge
can I have this one in my room
in the new house
and just as easily she says
do you think we will ever move again

Thinking of the thirty or so houses
in five countries on four continents
I have lived in since I was her age
I say maybe not


Movers! Not ready
hope and love win over fear
heart floats but knees ache

Dad and His Friends

I know right
who does that
how does a fiscal republican
raise democrats

I tried to instill values
and in so many ways
she is her father’s daughter
in the garden
at the swimming pool
with a book in her hand
but how does a heterosexual couple
raise an out lesbian

What happened to following
in your father’s foot steps
creating miniature versions
of yourself
how does a good LDS family
raise a Jew by choice

It is a crazy world where
bad things happen to good people
and good things happen to bad people
even hard to tell
the two apart sometimes
love’s the only way
to understand change
and choice and family


Sit quietly among the boxes piled high
regret not the hours on the bike
always leading to this moment
powering your leg and mind
for the road ahead

Regret not the music
made you cry
at the top of the hill
by the side of the road
among the wheat fields

Not the lover you left sitting
in the dark house
or the one at Dartmouth
the ones that didn’t see
the beauty of your eyes
the first kisses
regret none of these

Not the nights you spun
in the universe
trying to figure out what
god is
beating like a bat
using sonar
trying to get your bearings
feeling the pain of it all
in the pit of your stomach

You were meant to feel and whirl
dance across the hardwood floors
climb into the car
leaves falling
create memories

You’ve cycled these roads
a hundred times and
still wake up here
in this beautiful house
love and flowers all around you

Regret nothing, not one moment
moving, searching, wasting time
as gray enchanted
books unfinished, deadlines
use the color

You’ve packed the box of warm sweaters
as if each mistake
could be spun in your hand
and somehow churned
lead into gold
it is already so golden
so yours

Enjoy the memories
wash away the gritty details
a hot bath
ipad in hand sinking
your physical being deep
breathe in life
take that moment to adapt like children
running wild in the fence yard
safe and free
planting red onions beyond the fence
coloring outside of the boundaries
looking forward to summer heat
again this year

As Every Cell Listens

Listen to the world
memes in a sound
a best friend’s advice
teacher’s critique
constructive or not
car radio blaring
favorite songs
as memories flood in

Listen to the cycle of life
birds heralding spring
wind wandering though fall leaves
the crack of a bat in summer heat
winter bare maple branches
fingering frosted windows

Listen as every cell listens
your own voice responding
a question
how are you
placebo nosebo
optimist and pessimist
crusading for your health

What is the sound
you are making
who is making the sounds
you are responding to
listen sounds
they ripple


posted on a wall
seventeen winning syllables
language spreads color

see your neighbors tall small
wear your blood red beating heart
on your long white sleeve

float powerful words
flirt with life on a big stage
new perspective sails

Natural Mind

In “every animal the capacity
to lose hold
from time to time”
said Braitman in Animal Madness

There is a chameleon inside
colorful and cute
if you want me
to be
full to the skin of adaptability
a whirling world
I hold tight
to what is real

A totem bear
grasping sacred my own
defining my family
seen through wise eyes

A fox ready to run
or snarl and growl
if threatened yet
like the Little Prince’s
ready to be tamed
by those who mean
something to me

An osprey willing to hope
for eternal love
near the water
high above the drama
swirling within
my mind

Birth, Choice and Shifting Trajectories

Baptized Mormon at 8
a daughter of the Utah pioneers
five generations
a lineage stretched out

Back from the Colombia
and Belgium of my childhood
at 18 heading
for Brigham Young University
still on the trajectory
a mission in Japan

Life in Canada at 28
“consider existence blind,”
white coat impressive degrees
an ophthalmologist’s prediction
setting me on a healing journey
massage school, acupressure,
integrative manual therapy
matrix energetics

Better vision at 38 than 28
an out lesbian studying Buddhism
trying to find congruency
inner and outer peace

On the path at 48
a Jewish girlfriend at my side
feeling the music deep
in my soul a decade in
Colorado and Connecticut

At 58 celebrating
my birthday
as a Jew in Spokane
800 miles from the place of my birth
to the stars and back
birth and rebirth

I Become

The act of becoming
is not a solitary work
only built on my choices

Become actions
my response to your choices
transforms my trajectory

Beautifully my eyes witness all around
my beauty reflected in your eyes
moves me in a new direction

Your hand in mine
I turn my head to see
true dreams

For love
for joy
for creativity

Insight a Museum

Clock ticking
big hand approaches 12
small one already counting ten
museum doors roll
finally open

Facing impressions
a grove of quaking aspens
green and silver
and brown hues
shades mixed in ancient paint
details of a fractal pattern

A flash of red
cardinals setting fire
to the stillness
a robin’s heart beating
as it grabs an early breakfast
hiding in last fall’s leaves

Blue and white tree swallows
skim and dart over morning
reflected in the lake
steam floating just off the surface
burning in the sunlight

A bright yellow mushroom
growing in fertile earth
light doesn’t quite reach
long tendrils burrowing
loose loam

I take a deep breath
and come back to here
where I stand
on hard grey and white marble
enchanted in the adventure
before moving on
to the next feast


Yes, still collecting stamps
small flat valuable pieces of paper
an American penny
1000 lira
a British half penny
five rubbles
40 Belgian francs
all currencies of communication

Glued to the past
to my grandfather’ collection now mine
with his son’s,
my father still saves me stamps
in an envelope flattened
under a phone book in a kitchen drawer

Men in old uniforms
peer out from the square
papers with crinkly edges
attached to my collector’s book
next to tropical birds
beaks open as if squawking
tell me a story of jungle life
in Colombia where I roamed as a child

Whole collections of butterflies
world architecture
endangered animals
desert reptiles
bright hot air balloons
paying for passage on horses
trains, boats, and flying machines

Names have changed
governments have fallen
revolutionaries commemorated
invaders have left
me with stamps
from the Belgian Congo
more countries than exist anymore

Kings and queens
their names famous from birth
inscribed in bold fonts below
their images
strung through chronology
with ordinary men and women
setting out or happening to do
something great climbing mountains
visiting the moon

Bringing peace to war torn lands
adventures inscribed
in familiar and
unfamiliar languages
names a geography class
held within a tiny slip of paper

We all had stamps
the idea of money paid
stamped in approval
of the message carried
inside the envelope

Joyful holiday wishes
birthday celebrations
births and deaths
sad news from distant loves
unwanted messages from strangers

Convenient business transactions
now overwhelming
rich colorful textures
I still collect stamps
and yes I really want you
to count out stamps so
beauty is carried on the outside
or slap on a forever stamp

Send me a message

Coming Back

to life
long lived
seasonal cycles
spring chases winter
darkness of a break up
with renewal of love and
hoping this will last
be the last upheaval
longing to snuggle in

To second springs
myself coming back
to joy letting go
the chameleon flashing
a few true colors
propelling who I am
into a fresh tribe

Discovering how I fit
in the crook of her arm
at the FAVs table
Kosher dinners
musical bands

A new home
with familiar pear trees
transplanted like me
along with goji berries
Jerusalem artichokes
and bright yellow daffodils

All of us thriving
in a new state


Every day I make lists
planning my journey
what I should do
don’t should on yourself
a friend says
and I wonder

Am I trying to control the future
make a record of the past
the trick is
how to remember
hold sacred the day behind
while loosening the grip
controlling the future

Like holding a snake
caught in a gnarled orchard
loose enough to live
tight enough
so it doesn’t all
get away from me

My mind pauses over
today‘s details
this particular week
a momentous year to come
I have time now
time and water flowing faster
through the narrow places

What will I leave behind
where will I cross the moment
first in my mind’s eye
with or without the lists.

Global Nomad

Celebrating Passover
under a blood red moon
as tides pull on my soul
at the start
my second year here
loving children I didn’t birth

Following many paths
to the top
in the land of the rising sun
memories float like a blue moon
hanging low over Mount Fuji

I am good at letting go
on five continents
not proud but good
at saying goodbye to the past
to loss’s pain

A global nomad
home anywhere
I can see the sun rise
walk by the light
of a full moon

Mine is a wandering path
wisdom gained on the journey
deep in my cells
as I run
up the beach
like a turtle
under a full moon
planting seeds I will not grow
long gone at the harvest moon

Setting early in the morning
laying at the bottom
of a circle of stones
my back on the warm moist earth
of craggy Peruvian mountains
letting go
feeling the pull of nature
gathering and nurturing new seeds

Planting my feet on old lands
where battles have been fought
with blood and sweat
long before I arrived’
in Europe
a sense of history coming alive

Under the pull of the moon
nourished by cycling tides
of twinned losses
and new beginnings

Connecticut Yankee

I want to say
for a time I loved
being a Connecticut Yankee
attending fund raisers
in Mark Twain’s house
eating sweet potato fries
on Daniel Webster’s Blue Back square

Living in the space amid metropolises
cheers torn between
Yankees and Red Sox’s
enjoying U Conn women’s basketball
an unpresidented run
on greatness

Peddling strong
in green rolling hills
blowing off steam
on an indoor bike
for his re-election
training to leave

Wild Connecticut
her eyes
kale eating woodchucks
turkeys walking the sidewalks
blue hearts
open minds
East where the sun rises

The First Mile

Adrenalin pumping
the crowd cheers
first miles are not
the hardest

A life balanced in time
each and every mile

Time all alone on the road
brown splotched cows
and green corn
as far as you can see

3000 future miles looming
mountainous ribbons of road
seeming to go on

Losing for a moment
self finding love
and courage
gratitude most of all

When the first
excitement dissipates
creative processes
begin in earnest

Finding friends
uncovering beauty
deep potency inside
changes everything

Coming home unique
transformed by the crossing
started with one mile
a dream and a bicycle

Night falling
this is a dream
I can change anything
then sleep lifts

Lucid dreaming
I am awake
transforming everything

my trajectory
with courage
love and gratitude