"Signs of Life," "The News of the World," and "Homecoming II"

Signs of Life

We send the first astronauts to Mars,
and by the time we get their reports,
they could be dead. Or we could.
Explorers of alien territories and other
humans are always at risk.
Curiosity’s delay of 13.48 minutes
isn’t forever, but it’s enough.
Enough time for a man to choke
with a knee on his neck.
“Perseverance” has three antennae
on its “back” receiving signals from earth.
The fastest radio signal from the red dirt
and black meteorites of Mars is 3-4 minutes.
“I don’t have a gun, stop shooting,”
screamed Michael Brown.
He was shot in the back.
Three to four minutes is enough
time for a shot in the back.
The last thing George Floyd said,
“I can’t breathe,”
was the last thing Eric Garner rasped.
Trayvon Martin called out,
“What are you following me for?”
“Perseverance” is looking
for signs of ancient life.



The News of the World

The News
After days of consuming it
I am still famished and queasy,
             and caught in the grease
             and sizzle of history as it's made,
in the sausage of it, the gut
and pig muzzle of it. I float in
             its sizzle, slip into the pot of it
             it bubbles waiting to be fed
and oblivious, I feed it.
The World
In a blood month, in a death year,
in a country, swept
             by rapacious tornadoes, I survive,
             having passed through an autogolpe,
the mob handiwork that didn’t seize control.
I live now in the uncertainty of war
             on the see-saw of what-comes-after.
             my face to a fogged horizon,
singing and shouting and held by the throat.



Homecoming II

A friend, coming home from years in Ulaanbaatar
asks me, “what’s up with Tucker Carlson?”
Asking me, really, to explain what calls itself
journalism in 21st Century America. The question
freezes me, because what can I say?
What’s up with pleasing folks for a buck?
That’s the world’s oldest profession.
What’s up with the need for certainty?
What’s up with agitation and chaos
as an antidote to powerlessness?
What’s up with promoting authority
that ignores everything but appetite and fear?
How can I tell her, the news is bought for us?
The news is us, the new us? What’s up?



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 Monday, August 21, 2023 - 15:24