"California," "Hermeneutics," and "Russian Lit"


expresses you into the trees
as if Route 5/101 had spit you
from the failed gods of San Ysidro​
where a woman shoulders a child
from the blondness of LA
which does violence to icons
from a kingdom of gangs and tarps—
from the Grape Street Crips and the homeless—
and you find yourself , the trip opening
in a green shelter hurtling north
with the numb openness of your face
forgetting the pissed-in stalls of Del Mar at dusk
and your scars have vanished
and you can’t follow tonight, beneath the moths




after Paul Ricoeur

I read for the notions, I say. To know the writer’s life
is what I really fancy. Why else should I trace each
evolution of tense, each subtlety of phrase?
Bambi stands poised on the page, elegant,
beautiful, but I am skeptical of deer. Deer can kill
with their antlers—from the Old French antoillier,
a horn in front of the eyes. Is this deer some rogue unicorn?
Is the horn a stabbing horn? Plus, deer have cloven, dangerous
front hooves, sharp for defense, that also form
upside-down heart-shaped tracks. That tiny, remorseless
hoof forms the sign of love in the mud. Is its purpose
to coerce a reader to drop her guard? The writer leaves home:
A divorce? A subpoena? Another forest? Words
are a gossamer negligee, concealing the ugly bits
with chiffon, with lace, with blood-colored spandex.



Russian Lit

There was something
about his voice
when he lectured,
something about
his Russian books—
their suicide
their wrestle with
god. When he read
Tolstoy aloud,
I imagined
Count Vronsky, but
I never thought
of the train. There
was something a-
bout his Slavic
good looks, about
stiletto cheek-
bones and glossy
skin that made me
sweeten and rise
beyond the edge
of my little
life. After each
night’s class, I wished,
and shivered in
my marriage bed.
My body wept.



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 Tuesday, October 15, 2019 - 22:39