Two Poems by Mark DeCarteret

Poetry: Mark DeCarteret


After one day of rain
we could feel in our ankles
where the nails had been sunk
and we knew that His blood
would somehow fail us.

After two days of rain
the children sang of the pavement
they’d once chalked their own halos on—
when their tongues weren’t swollen
with the names of those who’d
they stuck them out at with blame.

After three days of rain
our bodies could only pray—
but still our sins multiplied,
stirred by even the mention of wind.

After four days of rain
we ate the last of our meat
and from that day on everything
tasted of detergent,
the waste it tried masking.

After five days of rain
we were spotted by crows—
their beaks springing like traps,
their black wings that last remnant of night—
it was then that we stopped storing memories.

After six days of rain
we could have been wrung out like ghosts,
sun lost on even our shut lids.

After seven days of rain
silence rose like a fever.

After eight days of rain
we doll-flopped on the surface,
assuring the sky we were no longer full of ourselves
as a billion cellphones went off at once.

After nine days of rain
we’d been reduced to some script—
this morality play tumbling up
on unrecognizable shores.

After ten days of rain
we were left with just lungs—
our trash-talking done,
even thinking a task—
we held on to what we knew
would be the last of any breaths.


“And those rows of celery,
how they bitter the air—
winter’s authentic foretaste.”
—William Carlos Williams

You too are mostly water,
this gush they go after with teeth—

something started as spit and then shred,
lost in front of this whitest of backgrounds.

So pained you’re luminescent,
though you manage more valuables,

this line more sun than the sun—
We will always go best with what buries us.

The cold abstains from all gestures
with the patience of some lure.

I have little to do with earth anymore,
my backbone and ending an afterthought.

I see someone walking towards me
my next explanation on a plate,

this corner of the room making retorts
that always end in abstractions.

All I taste of your past and mine
are the souls we’ve uprooted with our grief.

If there were any more doubts
tomorrow they’ll go into the throat and snip something out.

What it will be like to say there’s no movement—
to say for three days I won’t take in a thing.

Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2000), Thus Spake the Corpse (Black Sparrow Press, 1999) and Under the Legislature of Stars (Oyster River Press, 1999). Flap, his fifth book, was published last year by Finishing Line Press. You can check out his Postcard Project at

Photo credit: quicksandala,

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