"Bag," "Jesus Loves You," and "In Perilous Times"


A canvas bag, a cloth bag, a leather bag,
science says, the body amounts to
a bag of chemicals.
Do you sleep in yr underpants,
the ones from Wal-Mart?
Do you sleep in yr sweat pants?
What chemical told you it was Ok to do that?
When you are asked not to, do you comply?
Are you compliant?
What chemical made you agree?
The woman who says the producer raped her,
What kind of bag was she?
Was she an agreeable bag? What is rape?
What is that producer but
a bag of chemicals? Science says
we’re mostly water,
two hydrogens and an oxygen which,
on their own, don’t violate,
but just you add some chemical heat
and wait.



Jesus Loves You

Tiffany’s mother named her for a movie she’d never seen, featuring a jewelry store neither she nor her daughter were ever likely to see. After a time, Tiffany married a Nimrod. The Nimrod had “Jesus loves you,” tattooed on his forearm. He liked her name. She liked his farm.

She married him and his barn, the one where he kept his red corn sheller. At the wedding, she carried daises and the Baptist ladies provided a surplus of good-to-eats.

Tiffany and the Nimrod took their first night in a motel just past the truck stop, in a scarlet and white bridal suite. The motel had plastic furniture in the lobby, and “Jesus loves you,” graffitied on the condom machine in the public restroom. Then, they got back to the farm.

Willie Nelson has said, when he first wrote the song that became Patsy Klein’s classic hit “Crazy,” he called it “Stupid.” He did not mention what is known of desire and piety, that both may pass.



In Perilous Times

A flare in the fronds, flush
against grey cypress, bright
skewers of flame again
in the swamp. Coyote, muskrat,
red fox, nutria, slink away into the reeds.
Men arrive with gear and guns
and survival knives. Patriots,
concerned with logistics, are at it again.
Black bear, bobcat, cougar vanish
into the slash pine. Norway rats
and armadillo, the previous de facto authority
in this swamp, give way to men,
assuring their “good faith,” among
the alligators and corn snake. Cottonmouth
slither to safety, king snake, anole lizards,
tiger salamanders wait their turn
to crawl into a warm Gortex bivy.
The fronds tremble. The men promise
good faith. They mandate, “responsibility
and transparency.” They will, they say,
“remain vigilant” like their great-great-
granddaddies in the glorious war. The new
army creeps through the wetlands,
“a trusted force among the people,"
so help them God.”



Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the 2020 winner of the Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Award for The Mercy of Traffic and this spring, Doubleback Books reprinted her 2008 book, Discount Fireworks, available free at: Doubleback Books. Her website is www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com. Photo by Greg Comnes.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, July 26, 2020 - 22:48