7 New Poems by Jared Carter
New Orleans: the Degas House
It is, like everything else in this city,
a place of secrets. With the sun glinting
through the live oaks, the shutters
halfway closed, the brick walkways
worn to uniform smoothness, it is
a place of shadows.
A place of figures
framed by empty corridors, of far vistas
shown in paintings long removed and only
kept here in copies – glimpses of fields
and gardens, children brought together, seen
through an open doorway, their aprons clean
and starched, unnaturally white.
suspended in time: subjects holding poses
for long intervals. The young gentleman –
the cousin, the invalid – steps back, brush
in hand, studying the shadows. Before him
sits one who sees no shadows, who keeps
a stillness all her own.
From her, from
such perspectives, he begins to learn.
Eventually this place, this light will be
left behind, but everything else remains.
Outside, the peculiar veiled brightness.
Within, the cool, high-ceilinged rooms.
A Piece of Ice
Moments after they wheel you
into post-op recovery, you can’t
sit up, can’t move – but someone
slips you a piece of ice. “Something
to suck on,” the nurse says, and she
might as well have given you a bar
of platinum. On your parched tongue
it’s deliciously cold –
you’re standing with the other kids
beside the truck, while the ice-man
in his leather cape takes his pick
and chips at fifty pounds of ice –
slivers flying everywhere – until
it breaks in two, and all the kids
are reaching out calling “Me me me!”
Two Silver Maples
You, who have grown to this great height,
who have reached down into the earth,
who have looked out and recognized
others like yourselves, holding up the sky –
You, who for so many years have sheltered
small creatures in your branches, have been
home to birds and insects, to squirrels
hidden high up, to moles among your roots –
You, who have lasted, who have collected
the past springs and winters, and written them
in widening circles deep within you,
who have kept that record, and borne witness –
You we humbly ask for your forgiveness
for what we do now, which is to end your life
here on this planet – this ground we both share,
and that we, too, will take leave of, in time.
Now you will go into a darkness that is
beyond the earth, even beyond the sky,
but in our hearts it will be as though you
still stand in the sun, in the wind and the rain.
Never straight, always devious,
these forking paths
That branch into sheer mayhem. Thus
the white queen’s wrath
Confounded, the rook’s juggernaut
derailed, the sly
And unrelenting bishop cocked
a snook – that I
Might ride at last into the sun,
The old king roasted until done,
the bride stolen.
I will return, and hold you close
within my arms,
And cherish you, until the boasts
and fierce alarms
Of life will trouble you no more.
Beyond the wind’s
Relentless flow, we’ll find the door
that lets us in,
And there in secret will prepare
Such marriages as earth with air
and fire with rain.
That gesture of the offered hand?
Since it would now
Close upon emptiness, we can
The fountain, near the steps below,
In ways he thought – or longed to know –
might have been rhymes
He sought to gather once, like sheaves
that stand in rows,
Or random stalks the reaper leaves
for those bent low.
Found in a drawer, held up to
the screen, to try
To puzzle what is there. Look through
to sun and sky
Eclipsed, the shadows now ablaze,
faces dark, light
Inverted by its fixing. Days
caught in that bright
Abyss are gone – are gauzy wings
in amber, kept
In a drawer, among those things
best to forget.