Poems by Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Greed. Lust. Envy.


The freight train that takes away my sins
sings by, full of the Holy Ghost,

returned from the Jordan, whistles
through the sagebrush. Coyotes answer it.

One flat car at a time they pass
rubbed on by the gospel. So help me I can feel this.

Perched in the bird-heavy dawn. Thus,
I am absolved of taking the last piece,

of eyeing your husband, filching your turquoise skirt.
Rattle. Slam. Absolution
for ignoring the birds, the desert donkeys,


the parched coyotes, for misplaced lust,
acquitted for commanding the rain from a stone.
The train drags them away, one sin at a time




If the river is packing its neon reflection like a salesman packs a suitcase and the sunrise has burned itself to trashy brilliance, if we have eaten up the wet air all around our cars and pushed our trash too far into the ocean how soon will water forget the fragile hand of the swimmer, moving in and down? How soon will an arid lake forget us as we forget the touch of saturated leaves?

If some summers now the hay turns from the sower, comes in slow, if there is only enough time for one cutting before the dust takes the field as it has the tomato garden, how long then will it take the Cadiz Company to pump the Mojave to desiccated bone? How soon will we become dry constellations, lose the feel of damp May rising? And should I care if the stream is headed out of town, if the earth that holds me is only the dry part of the make-believe I called farming or untrammeled nature?

I have no choice; my memory is just a thirsty hound tracking any wet scent into the dusk, trailing any soggy gleam toward a beach lit up like the Lido. My sly heart, that irrigator and planter, hungers for more and more moisture and my silkworm mind spins narrow impulse into flood. Then I am a clean tide, a cool breeze to ruffle it, a long-distance swimmer, her palm caressing the water, rising, rising again.


Wendy Taylor Carlisle lived and works in the Ozarks. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks (both Jacaranda Books) and two chapbooks, and most recently Persephone on the Metro (MadHat Press, 2014). See some of her work online at wendytaylorcarlisle.com. 



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