For You — Poetry

For You

For you, I smile
even though the darkness
has settled into my bones
seeped into my veins
begging for release

You don’t need to see
this emptiness crawling
inside my weathered heart
nor the storms breaching
my weakened levees

I would poison you too
if this arsenic mind
crossed rivers to your soul
embedded itself
into the beauty you cherish

So I will smile
lie through embittered teeth
to protect your innocence
to prevent the nightmare
I truly am

©March 2015, Lori Carlson

Everything I Gave — a poem

Whole days I lingered
Parts of me fused into you
I couldn’t distinguish
My backbone from yours
Where my thoughts began
And yours ended

Once, our bodies molded
Into one lusty union
Passion so fierce
I feared us
We blazed the world

I would have remained
Craven unto you
A victim of your will
Forever enmeshed
In this unholy bargain
A deal struck by blood

But you had me tangled
In fishnets
Of twisted waters
I nearly drowned
My lungs filled
With your darkness

You offered no light
No life
Separate from your illusions
Everything I gave
You stole
Crushed beneath your feet

This was not love
No joining of souls
Only despair remains here

©March 2015, Lori Carlson

Upcoming Endeavors in April

Beginning in April, I will be focusing on several endeavors: Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day in April, Blogging from A-Z April Challenge with a Science Fiction theme, and finally a 30 day challenge revealing personal details about myself. All of these will take place on my prompting blog: Promptly Written. I invite you all to join me there in the month of April. It should prove to be an exciting and busy month.

I also invite you to take a look at my review blog: Ravyne’s Reviews. I will be posting my first review there in the upcoming days. I plan to review every book I read on this blog. So if you are a book lover, a reviewer, or even an author, please join me there.


Bitter Memories — A Study in Revision

I don’t usually reveal my rewrite process, but I decided to show both the original poem and the rewrite here. I wrote this poem back in 1995 while a student at Hollins College (now Hollins University). It sat, virtually untouched for two decades. First I will show the original edition, followed by a brief explanation of my rewrite process, and then finally I will show the revised edition. I hope you enjoy my process. Please let me know what you think of both the original and the rewrite.


Bitter Memories

Withered hands busily knit the sweater that will enfold him ~
sheep’s clothing ~ traps skin against wool against bitter cold.
Outside, the children build Frosty, three layers tall,
each mound proportioned slightly smaller; coal for eyes,
the last fuel for baking – she’ll chop wood before bedtime,
cool steel, wooden slivers; a huge carrot resembles
Aunt Bertie’s nose: angled and bent ~Irish Descent;
buttons from Granny’s tea tin imitate a crooked smile;
Pa’s pipe stabs the corner – corn husk from last season’s crop.
She lays aside the yarn and needles, pulls the lace from the window ~
spider webs ~ and recalls her own childhood: cold memories,
winters that engulfed her and five siblings ~ caged animals ~
Breeches of burlap sacks, cardboard soles, bundled rages for mittens.
They too built snow people, entire families, as frozen as their own –
Coal, carrots, and buttons, too sparse ~ blank faces.
She wipes the window with her apron, ancient coal dust ~ defiled virginity.
She looks beyond snow caps, a white sea of trees, smoke stacks ~ village ghosts.
She envisions the cities beyond, blinding glitter, her childhood dream ~
swan’s dance: silk and taffeta, twirls of red and blue ~ winter’s cold breath.
She returns the webs, unties her apron, washes away the blemishes ~ dullness.
©1995, Lori Carlson


I’ve always loved the concept of this poem. A woman, living an embittered life because of choices beyond her control. When I first wrote this poem, I was doing a series of poems dealing with memories, choices, and the loss of one’s dreams. When I returned to this poem recently, two things left me unsettled: 1) It is such a tightly woven poem and 2) it needs room to breathe. The first part of the revision was to give it space, so I lengthened the poem, opening it up into stanzas and shorter lines. The second part of the revision was to remove unnecessary words and add a few words that I felt would enhance the poem. The words in italicize represent the mindset of the subject of the poem, the embittered woman… Not quite her thoughts, but more like an observation from someone who knows this woman closely… a relative or best friend. Here is the revision:


Bitter Memories, revised

Withered hands busily knit
The sweater that will enfold him
Sheep’s clothing
Traps skin against wool against bitter cold

Outside, the children build Frosty
Three layers tall
Coal for eyes—
The last fuel for baking
She’ll chop wood before bedtime
Cool steel, wooden slivers
A huge carrot resembles
Aunt Bertie’s nose–angled and bent
Irish descent
Buttons from Granny’s tea tin
Imitate a crooked smile
Pa’s pipe stabs the corner
A corn husk from last season’s crop

She lays aside the yarn and needles
Pulls the lace from the window
Spider webs
And recalls her own childhood
Cold memories
Winters that engulfed her and five siblings
Like caged animals—
Breeches of burlap sacks
Cardboard soles
And bundled rages for mittens—
They too built snow people
Entire families as frozen as their own
Coal, carrots, and buttons, too sparse
Blank faces

She wipes the window with her apron
Ancient coal dust
Defiled virginity
And looks beyond snow caps
A white sea of trees and smoke stacks
Village ghosts
She envisions the cities beyond
Blinding glitter—
Her childhood dream
A swan’s dance
Silk and taffeta, twirls of red and blue
Instead, winter’s cold breath

She returns the webs
Unties her apron
Washes away the blemishes
And turns back to her bitter life

©1995,2015 Lori Carlson

Sacrifice — a poem


As a child, I drowned fireflies
in the river because I envisioned
them setting ablaze the forest like arsonists
I thought if I strained my ears
I could hear them sizzle like bacon on a grill
as they flopped about in the water
But they kicked their legs, belly-up
in the cascades of currents; leaves
their only life rafts, pulled them further downstream
their beacons flashed a silent SOS
When their glow softened to dull ochre
I gathered the ones closest to shore
tied strings about their tiny bodies
and as though they were hanged men
I sacrificed them to the trees

One summer, I overheard
that Sadie’s baby drowned in the river
while she fucked a married man
on the river’s bank. I imagined
the baby’s tiny body: arms flapping
like firefly wings as he gulped
water into his mouth; his immature lungs
expanding as he cried a silent alarm
and his too-large blue eyes staring blankly
into the world of trout and bass below
Alms to Nature

Now, floating down stream
inner thoughts bobbing
arms extended
I pay homage to the river
O sacred deity
I inhale and plunge backwards
into the cool recesses of its currents
As bubbles rise, my breath escapes; my lungs panic
Desperate Child
Yet the currents lift me
I surface unclaimed

© 1995, Lori Carlson