Four Poems by Sarah Carey

All You Can Fit In A Suitcase

Three tanks, an all-weather sweater
for layering, thermals. Leggings, a pair

of well-treaded boots for forced marching
in this hypothetical, which imports me

into your country like an unwanted pest
or an exotic species.

In the sides, tuck rhinestone toe-posts—
for sparkle, like champagne, like leisure-to-go—

or my mother’s diamond solitaire
with the story of my father’s postal route that bought it

and the grief they carried
when the bloom fell off the rose

sewn into a parka pocket. There’ll be room left
for my native birdsong on a flashdrive,

notecards with embossed gold leopards
right below the fold, as from the depths

of territory I can’t bring myself to navigate,
I’ll pen what’s left of my salvation

in the lining, like a legend you can follow
mapping how caged hopes burst free

like the restless wild cat dimmed
in memory, a handy guide to hold the world

in hand like the bird you know
and the heart you can’t,

closer to the vest than any secret.


What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You

If the baseball on a chair in someone’s office
represents a teen at home or a love of game

or where fun falls in the intersection of rules
and gray matter, hope for the old vestiges

of selves. What to make of anyone’s lack
of family pictures. What a masked face holds back—

breath, what you’d finally say if you could or would stay
married to restraint. If you play safely for keeps,

my first move doomed from the start. If you imagined
I moved at all, or in which direction.

If anyone claimed to be the wiser for their strategy.

Who could have known of the darkest year
before the darkest decade in 536, or how a volcanic eruption

could trigger a new ice age, the end of life
as anyone knew it. Churchill said those who fail

to learn from history are doomed to repeat it
we remind and remind and remind. Over and over

we revisit the scene of our crimes, whatever was done,
undone by our little treasons. Whatever evidence

remains behind. No touching. No room left
for heart. Meanwhile a colony of ants

overtaking my garden gobbles the sugary bait,
fake poison they will never recognize,

and die and die. Who knew? If looking back
we’ll reframe our murderous instincts

forgivingly in our best light. If we’ll both-sides regret.

If the brightest star in Orion knows its name
when you’re guessing it in today’s crossword,

a reminder that light lives, thousands of years
beyond our near annihilation. If you understand my curiosity

or would feel obligated to answer if I asked.
If you have learned yet fantasy

football, or can pinpoint your priorities. What it means
to win a battle with oneself. As if we don’t know

to open a certain door is to strip away pretenses
of innocence. As if we could ever go back.



Every town in eastern Colorado has one—
a silo, a silver sliver of granaries
clotting the landscape, harbor
for hundreds of tons of wheat. We plow
through every sleepy four-way stop, bisect
each major artery, often one
and same, ubiquitous, grateful for quiet
feeders where the world looms straight
ahead. Heartland. Endless roads, far from forlorn,
hold us—a testament to our rootlessness.
We can see forever ahead. Kansas,
sunflower state. Settlers used buffalo bones
to plant and harvest, I discover on my cell
when we find a signal. Tell me what you know,
I say, besides the fact that tasseled crops
we pass on either side are corn.
You shake your head. Farther west,
in Yellowstone, bison claim the park road
as their own. We stand our ground,
are never charged, keep well away from wildlife
like good tourists. Drawn to fame in South Dakota,
we traverse Wyoming scrub to view
Mount Rushmore, squinting at gray granite faces
we should know, though never keen on history.
We’ll share our own: we love the land,
remind ourselves, then look away.


In Florence, in the Summer of ’69,

we learned the taste of saltless butter
served with rolls as big as fists
at the villa where our father taught,

heard the word diesel for the first time
when he bought the black Mercedes
to sightsee in Naples or Rome

or for the longer drive to the train to Zermatt
where chalets and flowerboxes taught me quaint
and longing could burn both retina and heart,

drew me back to the alps in my thirties
to verify. In our flat, we learned the cost
of soft drinks at the supermercado

where our stepmother shopped for the week,
how not to assume we’d always have
our small indulgences. At night, gelato

of no price or peer among the novelties
we would select two generations later
from the freezer aisle, back in the States.

You’re never too young to be an orphan,
someone said, and the world returns
both seen and unseen in our innocence:

now we know Neil Armstrong
walked on the moon and David Bowie floated
in his tin can high above the world

while we followed the burning
smell of garlic, oregano, extra virgin
olive oil to the pizzeria

stared up in awe at the Ponte Vecchio
moved through time on cobblestones
into our father’s shadow, merged with our own.


Sarah Carey is a graduate of the Florida State University creative writing program. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Five Points, Florida Review, Zone 3, Redivider, River Heron Review, Split Rock Review, Atlanta Review and elsewhere. Her book reviews have appeared recently in Salamander, EcoTheo Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and the Los Angeles Review.

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