Carlen's work is also online at Crania

and Four Way Books


Xerographic image by Carlen Arnett


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Arnett's hand image

Carlen Arnett

“Hold back,”

       She said, “Don't dream—” but I was off on a calm white sea,
happy alone in my flat-bottomed boat. “Hold back,” she said, “Don't
dream—” and a box of Christmas chocolates bloomed from an open
drawer at me, the lid just off, half-a-dozen colored foils among the lights
and darks and soft centers. “Hold back,” she said, pounding up the stairs.
“Don't dream while I'm away—.” Then it was all dreams, caught
between the bristles of my brush. “Hold back.” Another handful.
“Hold back.” The dream is thinning. “Hold back.” A little longer.
The brush lies cold upon the floor.


The way to get to the bottom of something
is from below.


Who knows the shape of a wrist and the width of a thumb
knows all her lover's depths.


Love is not accessible by land.


Oh, love and sadness, how you lie to one another,
lie next to one another touching — rise up alike
crying, Not me, Not me.


All day smiling at dogs, Daddy's
dogs: Deuteronomy, Sky, Blue, Major,
Josh. A string of narrow cats, mostly white
has come and gone and the wind
lifts at the latch on the stable door every morning
for nothing. The man on this land has taken
his horse tail hair and braided it
the length of his back every day
for fifteen years. Now it's cut.
Removed. Does it hang
behind the study door, long on the wall
near a shelf of empty snake skins?

He is the snake father trading skins for smoke.
I am the daughter holding a wooden bowl by the door
all my life. It is April,

a snow squall comes before breakfast. The wind lasts
all day around trees, around
the house, fooling with wind chimes. Cleverness
that feeds nothing. He is building
a shrine here, nearly complete. Only
the final fact is missing. There is a bird
with wings made of tongue depressors.
A dictionary lies open to the same page for eighteen months.
I invent none of this. Not this wind, not this day.
Not the notice made out in his formal hand,
posted by the phone: “Police
Emergency. There is an armed intruder in my house

at. . . . Please hurry.” I am exactly
as alone as I have always been.

Under Scorpio

Moon a half moon. Little sour apples
in the grass.

I am staying up for something.
Trying to make anything

happen. So much of nothing
and for so long. My own real mother

gone off to join her own near the dead world.
As close as she can get.

To have a father, then. Or,
a decent lover. The one thing better
than a mother. The one desire

better understood.

If I open to the flame it will burn
the tallow of me. Burn me whole, or pure.

Burn me to a blackened wick. A message

from another world across the river
of my remembering him. —Which puts me where?

Too late now to be a girl, but I am one
old girl, all right. Already walking
in the flames of myself.

Stories in Miniature

       The man at the Hadley Flea Market informs me
in his low-brimmed voice, “That's a real Bible, ma'am.”
We stand in a field in August. Dozens of rickety tables
laden in the sun. “A real Bible.” I keep fingering
the doll house miniature, the shiny crucifix and latch
that snaps precisely open, shut, recounting the old order,
the Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus I absorbed for Confirmation,
and the ridiculous, lengthy begats. But I am female. XX.
I do the same things over and over. I am complicated,
unpredictable, and do not fit my life quite right. I want
a wide field in which to burn blue chicory into open fire.
A full circle skirt. Several men who love me.