Three Poems by Michael Carriger


A Gift Some Priest Left Nuns in Kansas

St. Francis hides tiny in the black mulch
without his cuddling wolf, his nuzzling lamb.
His right hand
cradles an open book, his left indulges
in a clutched skull.  He is a memento,
more so

than any death we will never know. What
is cold stone remains. It seems. You see
we see
little, shadows mainly.  In the curling places
of limb and leaf, left open and closed, cut
bright to spaces,

dark to thoughts, we know all there really
is. Even through frozen cycles, in the pelt
of sleet,
a soft drop of snow, lonesome winter rain,
St. Francis sits in Leavenworth feeling no pain
under a withered tree.


A Privilege

June green began. A fateful spin ushered sun
in, clouds out, a real breeze. After breakfast,
belly full,
I lopped young limbs, suckers, off the sweet gum
trunk. At stops I sniffed each leaf to make it last,
a beautiful

pull to soft attention. I paced my humble yards,
declared martial law on dandelions, an ugly scene.
From the garage
I lugged a ladder to the whelming gutters, needing,
for too, too long, a thorough rooting, a cleaning.

until I saw, a landscape light had made itself askew,
maybe knocked by the rotted branch in the fescue.
Or, the brindled
rabbit, canny, did it, who has burrowed warrens
like train-tracks underneath our deck.  Again,
my day is swindled.



The green bulge out of sand-silt rock blossoms
pink, spineless. Its derivative alters landscapes,
whether wet,
whether dry. Cut to buttons, they glisten numb
eyes to life. Once, under controls, Sartre met
infinite shapes,

grew wiser yet, and existed on. He hit and took.
An inconsistent, sinister mystery held off at limits,
fought certainty.
Between clinic and notebook, he blinked, shook
loose except for the crabs. Like a boorish skit
on French tv,

airing grainy in the early morning, refusing to
segue into news or some boring feature penned,
he, years on,
glimpsed ragged claws scurrying across lawn
and tile. Before lectures, even, he hushed them,
begging them to shoo.

About the Author

Mere miles from where abolitionist John Brown first drew blood, Michael Carriger grumbles today, loving the Kansas his family has called home for generations.  He has taught literature and composition for 25 years in various high schools and colleges.  Currently, he is Associate Professor of English at Johnson County Community College.  He enjoys a steady river and resistant fish to catch.  Likewise, he has been researching the life and works of John Berryman for over a decade.

Image: Vincent van Gogh, Tree Trunks in the Grass, 1890 (detail)

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