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by John Carter

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

When I kiss her,
I feel the spot on her front tooth,
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.



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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.
I feel her calm music.

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

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.

Give Me War

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Give Me War
by John Carter

(From a time before man, this represents a conversation between Lucifer and God, with thanks to C.S. Lewis, T.S. Elliot and Lucille Clifton.)

give me war
the death of children
and the lust for power

let them sit in judgment of each other
claiming to know Your mind

give me these
and i will show you fear in a handful of dust


                                                                                            I give you nothing
except what I take from them

the long view

they will be as children

                                                                                            and the cost of their independence
                                                                                            will be you

that is all
i need

let it begin.

Can I speak now?

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Can I speak now?
by John Carter

“From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”
– Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

Can I speak now
of the ticking of the clock
of the orange that ripens
on a bone white plate
on the desk where I write?

Of the girls
who pass beneath my window,
and the music
of their laughter?

Can I speak now
of the pen
on the page
of the wind
in the trees
of the child
in the womb
of the moon
in the night
of the air
in my lungs
of the lines
on my face
as I move
from lover
to writer
from living
to watching
from shadow
to spirit
from man
to angel?

Can I speak now
of all these things,
and others

Can I speak now?

What I Wanted

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What I Wanted
by John Carter

I wanted
to give you something
the world could never take,
but I lost it.

I wanted
to tell you the secret
that opens every door,
but I forgot
and locked them all.

I wanted
to sing a song
that would always make you dance
but I fell

I wanted
to be kinder
more patient
a better teacher,
to love your mother more
and myself less,
to give you only light and laughter,
not this dark estate.

I wanted
to do this one thing right.
To parent perfectly
in a world of dark beasts
crouching to take you away from me.

I wanted
to write this poem
to say how much I love you.
But these are only words.

The something, the secret, the song?
You are those things.

You’ll have to write
your own poem
to get a glimpse
of what I mean.