Charades and Four Other Poems

Robert Carr

I want to be inside
the wooden ribcage

of a god. I want
to fold my clothes

in a small room
with a red velvet curtain.

I’d confess: Once,
on the Boston Common, I kissed

a stranger in a Port-A-Potty.
Would a disembodied voice

ask, Why? There’s dark hope
in a dove-tailed booth.

Low-lit opening, Gothic frame,
a sense of someone

breathing, maybe sipping
tea behind a wall.

Ink stains on an oak bench
keeping backs straight.

I confess. I hide tears
for my Catholic husband’s

dead, his family’s
white-veiled weddings,

the dip of new babies
in a drop of blessed.

Blink. Peel cataract
off your eye like zest
shaved from an orange.
Blink. Night stands
naked in an open robe.

It’s early morning.
How long have you waited?
What clockwork
flashes? Don’t blink.
It’s only death.

No flesh beneath
the terry towel.
Everything you thought
had weight is pretense,
a suck, underwater.

Sterile hallways whisper –
To all appearances,
he was a healthy man.
Deborah’s hand rests
on the arm of her captain’s

chair. Grandchildren
mimic bleeps on Papa’s
monitor. She pulls
Polaroids from a bag –
Bahamas, heat lightning,

their wedding on the beach.
Back then, hair was long
enough to sit on. White
noise of farewell,
a silent sand in her throat,

she hums a song,
holds Glenn’s forearm
as their daughter places a cut
bouquet. Deborah spits
grief. A room of sunflower

galaxies. She damns
the solitary star that falls
from her eye. Toddlers
approach her. Nana Boots?
Papa’s metal bed. On tiptoe,

family shrinks away
as Deborah lifts her chin,
ascends fluorescent. She adjusts
her marquise diamond,
turns the stone

to sparkle. Orange and blue
twilight, cut champagne flute.
On Glenn’s blanket,
brought from home, photos curl.
A bluefish hangs from his hook.

He holds it high – Effortless.

I’m auger through a foot
of ice. Flipping
flag, needle-tooth pike

left overnight to freeze.
Too small. I’m a taste
of coffee steam as winter

rises in her crystal mouth.
I’m solid. A bald eagle
tries to lift me

off in claws. She fails.
I’ve never given flesh
without a fight.

Next morning, stiff.
The raptor’s mate
has got me by the tail.

The couple’s ripping
either end. At my gill,
she broadens my grin.

Don’t Think
That mark on my neck

isn’t skin cancer.

It’s your love bite.

I am speckled

with years of kisses.

Ignore the blood

trickle. My bleeding

has always healed.

Today will be

no different. Turn

away from that rat-

shaped cloud, open-

mouthed, shadow

toothed. The sun

is burning through.

Let’s walk together

into searing heat.

Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Shenandoah and Tar River Poetry. Robert is poetry editor with Indolent Books and Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional information can be found at