I live in Tucson with my wife Connie and volunteer with Sky Island Alliance, a regionally-based environmental organization. I am also poetry editor for Zócalo, a local arts magazine. I'm an opportunist, not a poet with a plan. Whatever catches my fancy, I write about: an engaging image, a political or environmental issue, a bit of zoology, an overheard conversation, and, of course, love, love, love. In grad school, I fell in love with Jonathan Swift. Thirty years later, I still have to rein in my satirical impulses to protect whatever is tender in my poems.
My wife asked me this morning
if I’d ever cheated on her.
My ex-wife called this afternoon
& asked me the same thing.
What’s going on?
That new Italian movie
the art film crowd adores,
the characters hysterical, nearly
operatic, their marriages dead
or dying. I imagine all the couples
sipping cappuccino after the movie,
nibbling biscotti, that close
to confessing their own infidelities.
I love my wife. I don’t whine
about my latest chore, cleaning
the litter box four or five times
a day. I can imagine one
of those histrionic Italian husbands
fuming, yearning for his mistress
as he kneels by the reeking box,
scooping cat feces & urinous clots
of litter into a plastic bag.
The second I’m done, our old cat
comes running. Otherwise,
he limps from room to room, moaning
like the ghost of some animal
whose bladder burst.
I love that old cat. Most nights
he snuggles under the comforter,
buzzing between me & my wife like a
space heater I need to repair.
The First Saltist Church of Tariq Our Lord
Whenever my mother mentions
Jesus, I praise Tariq, how,
2000 years ago, his spaceship
crash landed in central Utah.
Tariq, the Prince of Saltus, Tariq,
the 10-foot-tall alien who talks to me
in my dreams, whose ship of salt
dissolved in the 100-year rain.
I pray twice a day, facing
the Great Salt Lake. I drink a glass
of salt water each night.
When this world of tears ends,
when Lord Tariq returns, the planet
Saltus blood-red on the horizon,
the faithful will be like unto salt crystals,
the sweat drying on his awful brow.
My proof? Look at our language.
“Salt of the earth,” “salty dog,”
“the unplumbed, salt, estranging sea.”
And tell me this: when it
rains, what pours?
Land of the Pharaohs
I like being called “brother”
by black men. I like walking past
Land of the Pharaohs
& being invited in by the brothers
to bless them with a poem.
“Brothers,” I say, “brothers,
please, no keyboards, no congas,
let me lay something white & uptight
on you brothers.” I recite my poem
about Martians & Geiger counters,
its conclusion an ironic invitation
to Jesus to drop by some morning
for coffee. They hate it.
The brothers hate it
but they’re polite, not like Kerouac
at the Living Theater,
heckling Frank O’Hara
or the Academy Awards audience
mocking poor Sally Fields
when she said “You
like me! You really do
like me!” The brothers forgive me
as they’d forgive a flying nun
who alighted among them
& roosted, preening, while a brother
recited his hip-hop poem called
“Kill the White Muthafuckers.”
All three poems originally appeared in Get Serious: New and Selected Poems (Chax Press, 2013).
©2015 Jefferson Carter