POETRY – 5 Poems by Carla Carlson


For years I’ve been stealing a bit of silk from everyone I run into
slipping pieces into a slim drawer
not knowing why, until I can no longer contain
my urge to make something.  Today is the day
I’ll knit a cocoon around myself—
it’s white and glistening, as you’d imagine.

Now I don’t need anything, not a cup of coffee, not
a new set of markers, not a new novel.
The skin doctor has given me a clean bill of health.
But where are you, Love?  Perhaps I’ll wait
a few more minutes.

Perhaps I’m open to modifying the structure—
it’s difficult, these slippery threads
and my hands arthritic.  I can’t seem to keep my head
inside.  Here where there are no mirrors.  It’s like dying.

Never mind.  You’re still nursing your Faustian bargain
and I’m so tired of not telling you—what you need is time
as well as to simply adjust your eyes.


The pervasive chirps make strips of sound.
He kisses us both before leaving, not looking at me.
I begin listing:  elegance, disagreements, natural maneuvers,
cleaning surfaces—making slates palatable.  A table
calls for a vase.  Take this petal to the sales lady
sweetheart.  The lipstick costs under $100.00.
It’s the victorious project, the good night darling,
the thriving of the dying, the single word on rocks.


Together in white frame, the seashells.

Each year, collecting gets more boring.

The problem with any of these activities

is lack of promise.  Reaching people is

not dazzling.  Each day must use veins,

and harder.  The thing I’d like is a boat ride.

                                         Dear Guilt: 

you’ve had me drawing the wrong crowd.

See how I’ve hurt myself when my wish

was to simply descend the stairs, converse

with the older women, let them fill my ears

with euphemistic intuitions as we applaud

the children, pat the men.  Perhaps be optimistic.

Take your spot on the boat, where the breeze

is vicious.


for M.

Last night you woke me
like my own grown baby
gone abroad, somewhere;
perhaps you were—lost?,
or celebrating your birthday—
in any case, my worry
daemon rose to her place
setting my mind to blazing.
At first I turned to stone
(like always), whereby
I hold my in-breath
as long as is possible
while conjuring, or thinking
what might be pure
pouring forth, this a line
of driving light infusing
your smallest pink toe
straight from my own
little toe on the ever-long
out-breath and so on—
to the toe-next to that,
and so on, all the way up
through the body’s sections
inhaling and exhaling, mindlessly
until I reached your cerebral
cortex and you were there,
all lit up in the morning.


My eyes canvas your etched pose like a flibbertigibbet
pilfering a style, lurking inside your fresh-faced eye’s
calm sensors, integrating forest movements,
behold your plush ears extending height and hearing
like a queen’s crown, your dainty limbs beneath your form, revealing
only a peek of your polished hooves, your buttoned tail—

You are my aim and study, closest ally.
But must I have been born white-necked, erect, with pillowed breast
to wear the cloven coat, splashed in white paint drops?
What compelling fashion, this, that cloaks your blood’s heat,
digestive feats, and simple vagina which defines
the wiles of your aesthetic more than I, mine!

Carla Carlson’s poetry is engaged with domestic concerns, with the emotional negotiations required by every marriage and long-term relationship, and with the bliss and sometimes painful solitude that accompanies these experiences.  She tries to keep her work focused on everyday reality, images, and objects.  Her poems are written in a style both open and layered, lyrical yet direct, and willing to experiment with a variety of poetic modes.

She is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA writing program where she helped edit the journal Lumina and worked for the annual Sarah Lawrence College poetry festival. Her poems have appeared in print and online journals such as The Westchester Review, Chronogram Magazine, Fictionique, and The Mom Egg

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