Three Poems by Jan Carroll

Coming to with Night Glitter on You

Dream particles crash-landed like they do
on the smooth new surface of my waking,
parts of plays the team was running
in an all-night scrimmage chalked out
now dust motes parting or falling snow.
The Faraday cages left adrift in the ether
decayed as I combed my hair, and I lost for now
the frequency to cash in on the magnetism
and bolt of archetypes rushing about, type-cast.
Who can say where the hunky werewolf went
but I’m sure I’ll see him again. I always do,
choosing the ones who seem like lakes
but later turn into hurricanes. One frosted flake
escapes the confines of the bowl, the pour
of milk, takes its chances on the linoleum floor
installed in the middle ages—mine. Flecks, dreamlife
residue you can’t so easily brush off, accumulate at
alarming rates, haunting you. The wages of spinning
your wheels are thread-bare and barely get you to the next
checkpoint. But shavings of gold from the subconscious-hold wait,
puzzle pieces, clues, scattered. As I button my blouse I remember
as I was coming to, like heat lightning all night long
a woman’s voice at a microphone pleading,
“Mayday! Mayday!” and being revolutionary yet in distress
I wasn’t sure which way to take it.

I’m Interested

I burned a bridge once
crying all afternoon
in the kitchen. My guess is
its suspension wasn’t
that sturdy to begin with,
it only took one big generic box
of tissue. The heart, though, is
always hanging by a thread,
isn’t it? Dimwit, its answers
to the pop quiz always scribbled in
just before the bell rings
time’s up. I touched your arm once
years ago, still getting over him
but you took it as one peaceful gesture
amidst the fracas, nodded, walked on.
Now it seems a trick question
when you ask me out, hoping it’s not
too late. We go for a drink, end up filling in
each other’s slips of memory, confide too much
too quickly, laugh at ourselves.

How can this new alphabet begin
on the tongue at our age? Graciously
grandfathered in under the radar?
Brash yet sweet enough to win out
over die-hard habits to become
newly acquired taste? Mimicking
the speech of everlastings
that retain their frame and tint
when dried and gathered in
for bouquets and other
colorful arrangements?

Clue me in. Flag me down.
Send smoke signals. Text,
if you know how.

Like Lascaux

“One can only imagine what life was like during a time when art was used as more than a cultural compass but was believed to be a necessary part of survival.”—Amy Runyen, The Daily Book of Art

Cro-Magnon crouches in light and shadow,
grinds broken up collected rocks
in rough stone bowls—rusts, browns, blacks, golds—
crushes berries in the hollow of bones
for purples, blues, greens, some needing
to be boiled down first, chooses moss,
tied-together hair, stick, or fingertip
to inscribe woolly mammoth, auroch,
and other lost-to-us beasts on cave walls
and ceilings to bring them to life, each
creative act carving novelty from the primordial soup
of daily struggle, to coax and implore
the underlying mostly unfathomable cause
to ripen chances of basic survival—a good hunt,
a good mate, not-gone-out fire, escape
from warring tribes, or to worship
and merge with the animal spirit
as a way to breathe that same breath—creature or
creator both confused and explained,
inhale, exhale, paint, as you too
must have been dabbed into existence more than once
out of pigment, ligament, terror, love.

I sit at my tablet, craft
line and end-stop, syntax, image,
and sinew of tiny insight, one mote
of the larger whole, the ongoing movement,
the dying, the births, the world continually
leaving us and being given, surrendered, driven,
lapsed, beginning, created, creating, living.

Friends talk each other through the stress,
choreographing as they go, getting through
yet another mess. In the face of a gunman,
a body placed in between that and an innocent,
an offering both stark and vivid, gods called upon
within ourselves in split seconds. An arrangement
of notes played stays the hanging one more day,
a particular expression or design changes
the perception, affects the direction
the eye travels over the surface
and into the scene. Activists with bright banners
advocate for the wrecked, the abandoned,
the slipping. Gardeners and farmers consult
their growing tomes, sprinkle fertilizer
and deterrents over seedlings in furrows
to feed the good, lessen the harmful,
what is said, what is done, crucial
to the weave of the fabric, the breathwork,
to today’s reach, to there even being
a tomorrow.

Jan Carroll was born and raised near a river, and near a river she still lives and hopes she always will. She works in publishing and alternative healthcare, watches a lot of public television, hangs out with her 15-year-old beagle, Ellie, and once hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out.