Chipped

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Chipped
by John Carter

On her desk, she keeps an ancient blue tea cup
to whisk the spiders to safety,
outside.

When I kiss her,
I feel the spot on her front tooth,
chipped,
from when she fell.

Her gentle disposition
is the sum
of these tiny destructions.

This woman,
with her chipped tooth,
who keeps a cup
to save the spiders.

 

Deuterium

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Deuterium
By John Carter

The water in your glass
is older than the sun.
See your reflection.

The water in your glass
was a family of ice specks,
sailing in a cosmic cloud,
before the sun was set ablaze.

The water in your glass
seems so ordinary,
but you are mostly water, too.
Older than the sun,
and nearly as mysterious.

The water in your glass
is all the proof you need.
Open your eyes,
and behold.

Malgorzata Ab Aeterno

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Malgorzata Ab Aeterno
by John Carter

The world turns.
It carries us where it will,
towards eternity or oblivion.

The world turns.
It carried me to you,
daughter of light
shining inside me.

The world turns.
It carries us where it will.
Towards eternity or oblivion,
we move together.

Małgorzata (Polish pronunciation: [mawɡɔˈʐata]) is a Polish given name derived from the Greek word margarites (μαργαρίτης) meaning “pearl.” It is equivalent to the English “Margaret,” which also means “daughter of light.” Long before it was a television program, ab aeterno meant from the beginning, from an infinitely remote point of time in the past. In other words, always.

Tiny Flowers

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Tiny Flowers
by John Carter

Tiny flowers,
reach for the sun,
red, blue, golden.

I transplanted them last spring,
thinking they were just vines,
ground cover to fill the space
between what I imagined were the real flowers.

But they marched up the hill and exploded,
a storm of tiny blooms scattered across the lawn.

Like me,
they don’t belong here.
And winter is coming.

Morning Poem

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Morning Poem
by John Carter

I woke without you,
feeling echoes of the disarrangement
as you left our bed.

Lie still and listen.
Delicate footsteps carry my love.
Water runs. A drawer is opened.
The twinkle of a spoon as she stirs tea in her chipped blue cup.
Inside,
I feel her calm music.

Outside,
snowflakes waltz on invisible currents,
drifting down like
gentle kisses from a loving sky.

Lie down with me,
my inamorata earth.
Let these kisses cover you
with a blanket of our perfect morning love.

The Moment Before

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And someone entered death with his eyes open.–Alejandra Pizarnik.

I want to enter death with my eyes open. My ears open, without masks, without fears. Knowing and not knowing. Serenely facing other voices, other airs, other paths. Forgetting my memories, detaching myself, being reborn intact.”

– Claribel Alegria

For me, these words are about Faith more than Death, but even so, is writing about Death inherently depressing? I share the experience of many others who have been very close to death – finding the clarity of Claribel Alegria to be an affirmation of Life.

So many pieces have “working titles” that change, but it seems important that this poem, originally titled “My Last Moment” grew into the more fitting title “The Moment Before.”

 

The Moment Before
by John Carter

I hope
for a cool Vermont morning.
I’ll be out with my dogs, early,
just as the sun comes up.

For some reason, the mosquitoes will all be sleeping.
The dogs will romp in the grass,
still decorated with dew,
running to me, then away,
as they soak in the morning.

I’ll remember yesterday’s conversations with my children,
and smile at how they are all doing so well, so happy.

I’ll walk to a favorite spot and sit,
sun on my face,
reading a great book.
I’ll think about my granddaughter,
my parents, sisters, brother.
I’ll think about my best friends and laugh a little.
I’ll remember my old dog, Bo, and cry a little.

When it’s late enough
that the birds have stopped singing
and the chipmunks run back to their dens,
I’ll put my headphones on
and listen to Alison Krause and Gillian Welch sing I’ll Fly Away.

And then I will.

I’ll Fly Away

A Story about the Body

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A Story about the Body
by Robert Hass

The young composer, working that summer at an artist’s colony, had watched her for a week. She was Japanese, a painter, almost sixty, and he thought he was in love with her. He loved her work, and her work was like the way she moved her body, used her hands, looked at him directly when she mused and considered answers to his questions. One night, walking back from a concert, they came to her door and she turned to him and said, “I think you would like to have me. I would like that too, but I must tell you that I have had a double mastectomy,” and when he didn’t understand, “I’ve lost both my breasts.” The radiance that he had carried around in his belly and chest cavity-like music-withered quickly, and he made himself look at her when he said, “I’m sorry I don’t think I could.” He walked back to his own cabin through the pines, and in the morning he found a small blue bowl on the porch outside his door. It looked to be full of rose petals, but he found when he picked it up that the rose petals were on top; the rest of the bowl–she must have swept the corners of her studio–was full of dead bees.

Please support wonderful writers like Robert Hass at your local bookstore or here.

We’re in Eternity

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The mind cannot understand Rumi’s poetry. Neither can Desire. Mind and Desire are not enough. There’s something else, some other way of knowing. Some deeper part of our being that knows … we’re not in grief. We’re in eternity.

– Coleman Barks

Testament

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(Note from John: So often, whether I’m reading or writing a poem, one line or idea is the doorway that leads me to loving the rest of the work. In this poem, it’s the line “Now I am almost entirely love.” It’s what I aspire to.)

Testament
by Hayden Carruth

So often it has been displayed to us, the hourglass
with its grains of sand drifting down,
not as an object in our world
but as a sign, a symbol, our lives
drifting down grain by grain,
sifting away — I’m sure everyone must
see this emblem somewhere in the mind.
Yet not only our lives drift down. The stuff
of ego with which we began, the mass
in the upper chamber, filters away
as love accumulates below. Now
I am almost entirely love. I have been
to the banker, the broker, those strange
people, to talk about unit trusts,
annuities, CDs, IRAs, trying
to leave you whatever I can after
I die. I’ve made my will, written
you a long letter of instructions.
I think about this continually.
What will you do? How
will you live? You can’t go back
to cocktail waitressing in the casino.
And your poetry? It will bring you
at best a pittance in our civilization,
a widow’s mite, as mine has
for forty-five years. Which is why
I leave you so little. Brokers?
Unit trusts? I’m no financier doing
the world’s great business. And the sands
in the upper glass grow few. Can I leave
you the vale of ten thousand trilliums
where we buried our good cat Pokey
across the lane to the quarry?
Maybe the tulips I planted under
the lilac tree? Or our red-bellied
woodpeckers who have given us so
much pleasure, and the rabbits
and the deer? And kisses? And
love-makings? All our embracings?
I know millions of these will be still
unspent when the last grain of sand
falls with its whisper, its inconsequence,
on the mountain of my love below.

 

“Testament” is from from Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: Poems 1991-1995. Please support great writers like Hayden Carruth at your local book store or here.

My Father’s Sanctuary

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My Father’s Sanctuary
by John Carter

Dream, take me to my father’s sanctuary,
where the hay field stretches each morning
and yawns its soft, foggy breath
down the hill
and across the pond.

Where the reeds soak their feet
in limpid pools
that smile back at us,
reflecting the light
we now see in each other.

Where the clouds climb
down from the sky
and dance through barren treetops,
waltzing with the apple-pie winter air.

Where the bales in the barn
and the tools in the shed
echo my father’s love.

Where we share each other’s company,
a moment’s communion
that lasts forever.