Michael J Carter is a poet and clinical social worker who lives and works in Connecticut. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts Magazine among many others. He lives with his two hounds and spends his time swimming and knitting.
Peals of light,
petals of light, gold
the morning light sliding
along my tumbled sheets—
still warm with pleasure, mine
and a blushing, sweet boy
Is the body a prison?
Is my body mine?
Even if God touched me I was alone.
Alone: gilt-speckled dawn.
Sweet boy home now, gone.
MONASTERY OF SPIRITUAL LIGHT
Ice clogs the window where arctic air
through loose fittings hardens whirlpool steam
into a wintry sculpture. By spring the tiles
around the sill will crack. I’m floating on my back
feet resting on the built-in benches. Condensation
blisters the ceiling—big fat drops trembling like mercury—
underwater my heartbeat sounds like footsteps
on fresh snow. What about pleasure? Each morning
in high school I’d walk to the pool –smoking, 5:30 AM—
through the field where we used to hunt brown spiders
their cave-like lairs hidden in the grass. The sound
of footsteps on snow. To be alone. Pleasure.
I’m floating on my back. The external wall
is glass bricks, like stacked Japanese prints
the tree outside is reframed into pieces: Van Gogh’s
“Branch of the Flowering Almond Tree” repeated, the edges
rounded liquid like the tiles in the whirlpool bent
shifting in the current, pliable, lines soft and unpredictable
as Hikmet’s “Things I didn’t know I loved.” Sunlight,
lamplight—a Zen master’s definition of spiritual light.
Footsteps on fresh snow. Pleasure. Not-pleasure.
Spiders woven into the field, memory, inseparable from it.
What is alone? Fiber. Blanket of fresh snow. The various field.
The dog curled up on the blanket tossed onto the couch for her.
The shade flutters day then
dusk. Dust collects –soft and light—
in the corners, cumulus of skin and hair.
Half-sleep, hot afternoon, air gravid
humidity. A blanket ticking patterns
into my skin. Who watches over this?
Angel of Silent Longing? The only obstacle
is the belief that there is one.
In the seaside cemetery is a granite Labrador
Retriever, a loving companion in life and death.
“Let me—a mix and alive—whimpering in a house
filling with smoke while you doze. You aren’t
done yet, wake up, you aren’t done.”
SEPTEMBER, LATE AFTERNOON IN THE PARK
A tremble of leaves brindles shadow
a dark green sheen as clouds foam orchids
and iris, dove-grey against a palpably
blue sky. Breathy these shapes and I –out
of shape stopping to rest in the nubby stalks
of a mid-western meadow. What matters? The
sharp stick of grass through jeans, slim stream
runneling all the way to the Mississippi, the sea.
Mazing through the winds, Cowboy and I once
discovered a deer: head akimbo, legs tucked neat
underneath a lovely body tattered but complete.
It’s as though she’d simply curled
into a sleep so plush and replete that
she lost use of muscle and bone, hunger
and hoofed desire and was sinking whole
into this tangled patch of brambles. The body
is not a vessel. Tony’s final words to his lover
Jimi were, “The least thing I have to worry about
is my feet turning blue.” Then he died. Twenty-nine.
When I lived nearby I watched Dino, their
cocker spaniel, a little throw rug
of a dog, pool of honey at your feet,
sticky and sweet. What matters? The checkerboard
texture of white on white sheets where Tony
trumped me in Scrabble; their tiny
postage-stamp sized apartment; Tony’s
depressions. How can I know him except
through this – Jimi and Dino, his life?
to eat steak and potatoes, not fish
too fluid to root him against currents
of despair. And to stay grounded three
times a day he’d lay on the floor and someone
would press down hard on his chest. Down the hill
from here, in a mudhole with crumbling walls
where dogs twizzle water and chase treats, Cowboy
curtsies to cool his belly. Pool of wet dog.
Blood pooling like longing in his feet.
Oh, I longed for him, longed to have him before
death came to take and take and for one moment
to go there with him, with nothing to love.