November 2009

Catherine Carter


Catherine Carter was born on the eastern shore of Maryland and now lives with her husband near Western Carolina University, where she coordinates the English education program. Her first book, The Memory of Gills (Lousiana State University, 2006), has won state awards; her work also appears, among other places, in Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, and Best American Poetry 2008, and has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


Maybe three of the four grandparents drank,
drank a lot, and it's not much recommendation
that two of them managed to quit, or that you admired
that grit. So maybe the next generation
said, no way, not me. And if one has six king-sized bars
of dark chocolate over the fridge, one's shackled
to the Weather Channel, one can't stop shopping, and without
twelve maps, a cooler and a GPS, one can't travel,
and one embezzled what a dead man left,
and one's always just this side of the hairfine line
marking too many drinks, and one guzzles God
like dry pear wine—still, they're mostly fine,
they're dogged and brave, maybe this stuff dilutes out.  
But here you come, and while there hasn't been a real
drunk in thirty years, it's not like you're so much better.
Maybe what's bred in the bone comes out in the Achilles heel.
Maybe you like gin more than is safe,
and are always having to quit for a month, to see if you can,
or at six your spouse calls you at work—are you ever coming home?
or maybe you've an eye for a fetching man,
and maybe you get a lot of your words that way,
getting hooked on someone there's no having,
for a few months, or even a few days.
Maybe, though you're fed full, there's still some craving
eating at you. Maybe family curses stick tight,
and there's a reason DNA looks like links
in the chains that lock you to your crazy acres' walls.
Maybe, one way or another, you'll have your drink.  
Maybe you are coming home, sooner than you think.  



One More Ars Poetica    

They're children of sin who don't know what I did
to get them; don't care if I betrayed
the beloved to steal others' wordsperm, played
the whore whose heart is soft as mallow, cold
as gold. They don't care if Puritans
in my blood, white sails beating
down the thin streams of vein and history,
have snatched up their torches, mob
together under the skin, coming
to burn me for the witch
I am. They'll never debate
all that, righteousness, penitence, shame;
the children of sin are innocent
as their robbed fathers, as their mother's
prey. They babble, laugh, wave
their adorable fingers and toes and lines,
whistle like wrens, coo and splash
in endless summer grass.  
And when I'm with them
I'm happy too; with a mother's
utter selfishness, forgetting
the grief and guilt that hung me
a hundred nights in the terrible stocks,
I whisper again in their secret tongue, my
precious, my loves, don't fear, begin
brave lives, run far, I would do anything
for you, and I have.



Catherine Carter: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 45The Cortland Review