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Sarah Carey


In each issue, the editors choose a writer they would like to bring
to the readers' attention.

In this issue, Sarah Carey is highlighted.

Sarah Carey's poems establish their self-assured territory and invite us in: "Most days, I skirt my karst terrain, / mindful of sinking..." They say, listen, it gets this bad but circumstances still present the sublime: "Knowing blood by sense, if not by sight, / how scrubbed steps still whisper to souls". And they are filled with insight: "Yet something not akin to memory sparks my skin to burn within". When they ask you to come in you will answer yes.

What You Called Your Mother Came to Me

After the Fall


Reverse Universe

Speaking of God


All the Dog Couldn't Tell Me of Desire

What You Called Your Mother Came to Me

After the dog meanders his usual circle,
lifts a leg, completes his business, after coffee
—mein  tägesablauf, you’d say, my routine

the sun rises, more stable than I’ll ever be,
in what feels like no time before burning.
Once, we owned more books

to check our meanings, lost ourselves
in any loose translation. What’s left
of your library lives in a locked storage locker
I dream of opening, only to close

like the last great novel I finished,
sad that the journey of words, white space
in unspoken margins, was over.

Most days, I skirt my karst terrain,
mindful of sinking, or I say
we’re blessed some mysteries
still live on our shelves, unfinished,

like wonder when a certain passage
ends, another starts. Indiana boy
of German roots, you shoveled snow

many a winter, the story goes,
craved Florida, moved South for school,
unspooled a new family chapter
but couldn’t get home before dying.

Here in the sunshine state in November,
after your 88th birthday, cooler air,
red/golds of autumn leaf senescence,

I’ve turned clocks back, lost the light we saved
— though not for lack of trying —
live back-lit by moments left,

dream you open like a tome
I fall through, and, within your pages’ soil
and bone, a name dislodges I forgot I knew:
Mutti, bookmarked in memory’s tongue.

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After the Fall

No matter how far we’ve come,
our feet know the back way back,
home in our own white house

in the historical register,
where we calibrate our place
in the day: first the widow will share

the plan for gathering, walk us
through our entrance to the church—
who will fill the pews in first

before we caravan to the service.
Someone takes our cousin, the nonagenarian,
by the elbow, gently, (he is fine, thank you),

leads him to the pebbles’ grassy edge,
lined by violets, cabbage flower
purpling the portico’s base

like a bruise. He places his father’s cane,
a century-and-a-half old, if a day,
sets the tip where purchase

may be gained—turns to us to affirm,
It was here, yes? Here he fell?

Knowing blood by sense, if not by sight,
how scrubbed steps still whisper to souls
with ears to landscaped rock—say, Yes, Cousin.

Cousin pauses, then tacks starboard,
like two brothers as young sailors did,
to stay a course, but sets this one alone,

winds the homestead’s soft side path,
slowly as a clock.  

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We may speak of less well-known friends
with incidents named after them,
like Johnny Bright, jaw-hit playing football

in Oklahoma, or ask if we’d be bold enough today,
to call out what we saw, take a knee
or let go shadows from the past

to capture how it all went down—
years embodying a pass, a puberty, a phase,
but blazed into memory.

When Kennedy died, my father
drove me home from school, shaking
the whole way—the way I learned life

turns on an instant, a grown man’s tears
I flashback on, shaken
like a broken kaleidoscope.

Yet some of us nearly missed the war,
preoccupied with what we wore
or weighed, or who we wished to be.

If I defy the stand I never took, and you deny
you looked away, can we still be compatriots,
will you still fill me in on buildings razed

or relocated, give me news illuminating
classmates’ lives, our teachers’ deaths,
if we relive the bonhomie that bound us?

As for how we’d like to live or be remembered,
we might say we did the best we could,
or tried our hardest to forgive.

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Reverse Universe

The fall shatters my right hand—
black speckling white metacarpals on the X-ray,

like a reverse universe. The splint,
the first doctor’s stop-gap stability,

allows my flesh to swell—
a river of tissue pushed to its purple banks

while I wait for the flood to subside,
hearing bone repair takes time,

cascades of cytokines. I wave my arm:
A cast, a spell of immobility.

The new nurse layers me in stockinette,
cotton bandage, fiberglass,

but not before I glimpse my chameleon nature,
more kaleidoscope than chrysalis —

no hoped-for metamorphosis in this process,
unless a return to normalcy gives me wings.

Astronomers say space expands, unfolds, contracts
but I cocoon, content to ward off atrophy.

I slide my father’s coffee from the Keurig
with my good hand, fill the mug halfway

with whole milk, spell my every cell
and landscape he imprinted,

every shattered star and ilk reconstituted
while he still has life

and will enough to listen
to the secrets of my light years.

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Speaking of God

On an island full of slash pine and palmetto,
my dog relieves himself, as I slacken our leash,

and crows staccato warning of us in the canopy
as his stream interrogates the shepherd’s needle.

We face the sun’s overbearing light,
the hoped-for promise of another day—

transcendence, even in these man-made oases,
miracles of cultivation, mimicking Florida

before human design, when our state
was adaptable as air-plants rooting wherever

chance or intervention takes them: into rocks,
tree branches, terrarium orb. My cul-de-sac.

The dog alongside me, a bit lighter,
as I carry his waste, while morning fires alight

wild goldenrod, the neighbor’s planted agapanthus
as my eyes absorb the red-barred breast

of a low-flying hawk, and photic data
penetrates my psyche: light, above all, light,

imprinted in my every nerve, umbrella shielding
what I dream, yet cannot see. Old friend,

I still seek signs of you, in any green thing
growing, grown, for any clue that you might see me,

nestled in this life, as sandhills migrate
to another state, as I breathe June’s high pollen,

your miraculous dust. See me shining, half-lit
then refracted, almost home,

see from the third-eye pineal view,
now waking, winded, how I burn for you.

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I used to love hot—a shot of comfort
in black tea, the pot’s whistle
signaling the bag’s drop and steep,

the coming heat my hands absorb
from the mug, or what emanates

from patience. Hot tea as heart hug,
or a tub filled with water
just shy of scalding. This I know

as surely as my blood boils at injustice,
such as I grow old before my time,
and you remember me most vividly

when I was young, my face unmarked,
my features not yet blurred—
not that you love me less.

Yet something not akin to memory
sparks my skin to burn within 

and I lose touch with touch,
to my chagrin. Inspect me, I say,
after shedding shirt, bra, bending over

our bed. You lean toward my back,
to seek blisters like burns, like too much sun leaves,

or how we feel when we believe ourselves
infallible, Icarian—my rash

or what’s left of my last indecisions,
proof of my hem and haw:                               

Treat nerve pain with gabapentin,
or lidocaine? How much of everything
am I allowed to take?

I throw down all the pills and patches,
like a gauntlet: Come for me.

Meanwhile, you scan what I can’t see.
Even the sheets hurt, I say.


Helvetesilde, Norwegians call it—
hell’s fire, around my dermatome:

shingles, from the Latin cingulum, meaning belt,
called zoster by the ancient Greeks, for girdle.

Robin Williams had it. So did Richard Nixon, and Roseanne.
Your mother, my father, me—
the ones in three this virus will awaken in,

like a volcano venting, or an earthquake—
a bodily event evoked through no fault,
latent in my dorsal root ganglia.

We spoke of roots the other week,
compared migrations on an ancestry website.
Your people would never spit in a vial,

send DNA to a company,
like so much cash or social currency,

as if genetic code might trace propensities,
or immunity from pestilence.

What you don’t know, can’t hurt you, Father used to say
when I was young, and he knew everything.

Socrates said, true knowledge is knowing
you know nothing
, or something

to that effect. I know nothing
but my body’s secrets, which I’ll keep for life.


You can’t catch it from me, I say,
as you shift me from my shoulders—this way, that—
like the earth spins around its axis

and I’m suddenly sun, or moon,
your permanent satellite, beaming evidence:
angry red grows dull around my torso,
or my color changes, as you move me side to side,

assess where blisters wait to crust, or crusted, dried—
like you and I, still raw from our last argument.

Whisper in my ear, Dearest
whether my neuralgia lingers, or its flames retreat,

if our steaming origins contain an antidote to aging,
or we strain to conjure how we once defined
our breaking points, and at which point, let go,

no potent potion promising relief,
we’ll live our lives infused

with hope and resignation, simultaneously,
released to what we see, yet cannot know.

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All the Dog Couldn't Tell Me of Desire

Our son called later than usual that night.
The dog ate two cups of food before
The phone rang, then begged for release
And I gave it—my one brief reprieve
As he dashed through the door, our yard
With no fence, many woods, a lake, snakes.
I talked longer than usual that night.
I was used to the dog disappearing,
Not to the chill I felt like a front
Or a viral invasion. Red in the sky
Pooled low near the lake, like a body bleeding
As sun set and dark fell, filling each cavity
He’d dug in the dirt, like a grave.
I traced each path he’d pranced, scanned sand
With my flashlight for prints. I harkened for bark,
Howl or splash, stared at stars—
Where might Canis Major, Sirius lead?
I imagine him staring past my face
At deer near the water’s edge, or wild turkey foraging
Near the old canoe. What could I have taken
As clue? Nose to air to scent wind carries.
Had I followed. Had I sensed all he couldn’t tell me
Of desire. Suddenly a keening, tuning fork and magnet,
Drove me down our graded road
As my brights swept each ditch
Till a still, dark shape appeared.
No stars blinked in the blank sky the moon left
When I pulled off on a stretch of shoulder,
Pitched over him, too late.

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Sarah Carey's poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Verse Daily, Atlanta Review, Grist, Yemassee, Stirring, Frontier Poetry and elsewhere. Her book reviews of other poets' work have appeared recently in EcoTheo Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and the Los Angeles Review.

Sarah's poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Orison Anthology. Her poetry chapbook, Accommodations (2019) received the Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. She also is the author of another chapbook, The Heart Contracts (Finishing Line Press, 2016.) Visit her at or on Twitter @SayCarey1.

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