In cool complicated linen, a skeptic succumbs to a church supper: hymns, rhinestones, rich potluck pickings, where the delicious embraces the louche. When such an unbeliever slips into the long, hot Sundays of Pentecost, her purpose can only be thievery, a wish to catch the train of believing, to make the ride for free, as easy as blowing her nose in someone else's starched cotton handkerchief.
We are on the border of a weather disaster, the cashier at Dillard's tells the skeptic then adds, Don't worry. The Lord is on the way.
The skeptic is comforted by this considering how she will whoosh up with the crowd, lifted on the backwash of the Holy. It cheers her to talk about her old wicked days as if they were done. But if that's so, where did her foolishness come from, tricky as a tennis elbow, with all the same turbulence, the same anxious gifts as at the beginning?
There is no answer to this and nothing to do but to swallow the offerings of ambrosia and angel food cake and remind herself that all wishes are valid although not all fulfillments are just. Fifty-fifty. More likely ninety-ten.
Still, a person must try everything. Stop at nothing. Even knowing, finally, deliverance is all about grace.
Parked behind the Rent to Own: Furniture and Jewelry his head goes straight for her breast his hands tangle in her first-job Sonic apron his hair burns black above her lap beyond the windshield traffic insists on its own way jays clamor everybody else's daughters play at tissue paper dolls
in the end he has to let her go to make her own way among the azaleas to bloom in the woods where tongues of lily leaf and fern rustle he has to rip himself from her ribs her pubic bone and all the rest on the street the girls screech and Double-Dutch
For weeks after women stand half-hidden behind wrought iron rails peer down at the street where a late sun scabs the sidewalk stains a white towel scarlet on the line on nearby balconies wicker chairs creak into concave submission under the weight of someone like him
the women tell themselves there is no sin in not saying her name no sin in fumbling through the sad contents of a mortuary footlocker they don't ask how did it happen they gossip over yellowed clippings they scrub and explain in a survivor's whisper how dust becomes more dust immaculate in breathing bodies they outlast yesterday and yesterday's blood and the mystery of how utterly they clean things up
Trains, passengers on trains, Wal-Marts, broke unions, naked children, little falls, Hog Scald, home gardens, hand quilters, wood turners, button crafters, water witchers, marine recruiters, bread bakers, road graders, handshake contracts, land taxes, brood mares, corn liquor, pulled taffy, kerosene, cranked ice cream, Woodpeckers, town deer, mountain lions, peckerwoods, water wars, no insurance, Payless, weight more, the steamroller future coming at you, dark as the inside of a mule.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives on the edge of Texas with one foot in Arkansas. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog (2000) and Discount Fireworks (2008). She has two published chapbooks: After Happily Ever After (2River Chapbook Series) and The Storage of Angels (Slow Water Press). Her work is included in several anthologies: The Poets Grimm, (2003), Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems and Paintings from Texas, ed. Naomi Shihab Nye, (2004) and Letters to the World, eds. Moira Richards, Rosemary Starace, and Lesley Wheeler, (2007) and others. Her poems have appeared in 2River View, Salt River Review, Cider Press Review, Aquila, Bent Pin Quarterly and elsewhere. Further notes about her poems on line and in print appear on her website WendyTaylorCarlisle.com.