Tina Carlson | 3 poems


My father was afraid to be born. 
The womb, full of ghosts: hearty 
Swedes digging snow caves in woolen 
pants, and those Germans always 
building new cities. Not to mention the sister 
who dead-fish-floated the year
before. In that roiling cave, my father 
thrashed, roped to his mother’s
pulse. Weeks late, he was born in a blizzard.  
The air teamed with frozen flakes. 
Her skin smelled of vinegar and sweat. 

In the Embassy of Silence

My mother fills paper
boats with pastel mints,
juice glasses with bourbon. 
The room shimmers with lit
cigarettes. We watch 
the perfumed players sneak 
peeks at other hands, bet 
and bluff. Out back my father 
beats hedges with rusted shears, 
says  god damn  shit ass .
Glasses empty. My brother 
puts frozen peas on his bruises.  
My mother hums in her new 
blue party dress. Ladies praise 
her close-to-perfect white cake.

Macchu Picchu

All trails lead to you.  I keep glossies of you hidden, 
greening in dark closets, inhabit you in dreams.

Once I was a cottonwood’s captain.  
Her split-trunk cocoon smooth as skin, bark-less.

My mates were bald boys and wild dirty girls.
We sailed across the bland fields to you, 

verdant beacon, cut-glass spires of stone. 
My steep steps, my granite prayers. 

The ditches ran with fury. In night’s splintered light, 
my father simmered. He chased us into trees 

where we set off again. Green, o clouds above the squall.
Over our own piney mountains, dry with baked dirt. 

We ate soup right out of the can. Made maps in mud.
Rose to the occasion of you when we were able.

I want to say:  you were always the one. A terraced rise, mist. 
All these tangled trails lead to you, your clean cut stone. 

tina_carlsonTina Carlson is a poet and a psychiatric healthcare provider at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Dark Mountain, bosque (the magazine), Blue Mesa Review, New Mexico Mercury, American Journal of Nursing and her work has been anthologized in The Best of Kore Press and Waving, Not Drowning, among others. She is currently working on a collaborative book with 2 other poets as a response to the election results of 2016.

Her book Ground, Wind, This Body explores the effects of war on family and is forthcoming from UNM Press in March 2017.

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