C.S. Carrier



Dear Jim, Happy Birthday! ¡Feliz Cumple! Bon Anniversaire! I’ll bake a cake for you later. I’ll raise a pint, throw leaves into a fire. The world’s older now, too. // Dear Jim, this morning, the skies were pink beyond the bluff. So far, the wind’s blown seven times. I wish the crows would show up. I’m the weather, a crust of bread. // Dear Jim, I almost lost your eye. The wind caught it, but then it snagged on a tree. I caught it back, put it back in its crocheted pouch to remind me what to do while on this orb of spit. // Yeah, the earth’s an orb of spit hurtling through pockets of ash & dust & dream. Your eye shows me how to see. There’s an ethics at stake here. // Dear Jim, I fell out of the air at the news. I felt profound despair for those that wouldn’t know your numerous eye upon them. Same for the blood rocks & fat pumpkins, for the falsely imprisoned & the “unvoiced longing toward a truer world.” // Some say spirit’s all there is. Fuck that. I say all there is is terror. We live in a barely habitable dome sliced through with dirty blades. We live in bodies. We have bodies and dreams that are our own, that should be fought for. // Dear Jim, coal dust & carbon dioxide play on everything, even thugs & especially trees. “Heart” was what I meant, not “trees.” I saw a movie lately where a character called the heart “just a muscle.” I was like, yep, just a muscle. Then, I was like, nah, it’s a kaleidoscopic bird caught in a turbine. // Dear Jim, I’m writing in the darkness in Arkansas, where groundwater gets lost in the karst topography, washing away time & light, language & past. What’s left after an eye & some vapor? What’s left after some flowers & singing? // Dear Jim, did you ever get the mustard & ketchup out of your jeans? Where’d you learn such an excellent baseball slide? I see it still, your blur through the kitchen. Then, I see your knees in the sand & want them to slide you away, into home, New Hampshire. But that’d be too much magic. // Dear Jim, I’ve been playing basketball at the community center with some guys, who call me pink hair guy. I guess it’s because I got a pink Mohawk to call attention to cancer. Too bad I got no jumpshot when it counts. It’d be nice to be able to break peoples’ ankles. // Dear Jim, Dear Ghost, a tongue blackens in the evening trees. It blackens the evening trees, a crooked snake dangling from a claw, a polished claw brandishing a knotted snake. Dear Element, Dear Scale. // Dear Dance, Centrifugal Force, I’ve been avoiding this, this writing to you. Never knew what to write. The words felt like too much, like puzzle pieces or brackish water. But then the silence felt like too much, like a dried cave of veins. Mostly, I feared the response, // really. Dear Jim, Celestial Longitude, what’d we know of death back then? What’d we know // of air, the neck pink & rimed with sand? Of the weight of, the inertia of // back then, the body stripped of air? What we could, I guess, which was wrong & we still— // Dear Jim, since August, I’ve seen you everywhere. In sand, oranges, // bottles, in firepits. In stone, playing chess, smoking cigarettes, in prayer. In aviator shades & flak jacket, // head turned down the street, toward danger, the downcast. I’ve studied // your jawline, its prominence. Or is it “providence”? I’ve felt // this giant black rock battering me & battering me from under my gut. I see things, the dark skull. Can’t sleep. I want control & resisting sleep is a kind of control. Dear Jim, // you’re not a dream, you’re real. You’re an anode, // a site electrons pass through, a golden arm. // More rupture than music. More sphere than person. Where are you // now? It’s been so long. The earth, charged with knives, // fractions, with black ore, buffeted ghosts. Rivers, // pink, shredded with loss, played on // by bodies amputated of voices. I don’t want to be numb or absent, to be that space // always just past the window. I don’t want to be a bird always living in a tree or an eye // always in a crocheted pouch. I want to be // open & fluid & valence & force. Dear Jim, // when you return, yo, we’ll go back // to dancing & laughter & love. We’ll shine // by the light of your watchful, boundless gaze.

For the Monster of Tomaž Šalamun     an Ode


to that that I love    a kind of Ovid    a kind psychopomp
to its monstrosity    that I drink from the head of
that language I use to fly through the window

to that that moves in the woods on golden ribbons
that uproots me to tickle honey from my gears
that fills me with an irradiated goat of death

to that that I see on fire    in the snow as a boot
in aluminum that anodizes the air into tassels and braids
the birds into iron filings    O molten sphere    O electric orb

to that that lives in white flowers on rocky hillsides
that comes to visit the townspeople at dawn
that lives in them    makes them rounded

that functions between worlds    in the entre-space
to that that I learn from    that that I steal from
that that asks me to see the ancestors on the windshield

to glue their silky residues to my interior voice
to that that Rumi Khlebnikov Lorca Cendrars and Pessoa
dangle from by neon piercings like ornaments

that sharpens my propeller with a whetstone
that washes it in milk    O proton in that chiaroscuro
of dried livers    O sacred cow breeding ellipses


to that silver hair    that sunflower    that poppy
that links coordinates within a telekinetic terroir
that that pinches apart the navel and unspools the moth

that I grind into gypsum    hominy and steam
to that carnival likeness of St. Francis    that pirate
of turpentine that wields an acetylene torch at the gates

that that the owls totem    that smoking algorithm
that oozed from a limestone outcropping then warped
the piazzas of Venice    the subways of New York

with the passing weight of its lyric haunches
O that that I see in the lilac    O that that
marks my spaces    O that that mottles batons

to that that offers me bread    jagged with electrons
that I tear and dip into oil that stains my beard
to that firebird that is poured into sand

then blooms anew    transitive and intransitive
antithesis to country and the carbuncles of Poetry
that whisper in clubhouses that hem the militarized zones

preaching truth    O hypnotic elderberry that vibrates
the air before tanks     snips the puppetry
O radiant psalm that electrocutes the field


                                                 and the imagination
its embouchure    the briny estuary and its prow
and the wheat germ that hurls spears into the receding 

horizon    and the shapes that unfurl in tea leaves
and in names on bloody paper    the serpentine belts

that slither between the gears    and the blackberry bush
the questions between the thorns and the fruit

charged with blood and tears    the humming eyelid
the jittery diaphragm    and the branching rhizomes

the figure that sometimes sleeps    that sometimes preens
and that always looks to sing through some new terrors

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C.S. Carrier has an MFA from the  University of Massachusetts Amherst and a PhD from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is the winner of the 2018 Omnidawn Broadside Poetry Prize. He is the author of After Dayton and Mantle, and his poems have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including The Idle Class and Dream Pop Journal. He grew up in western North Carolina and currently lives in western Arkansas.