A crow fashions a nest of shiny aluminum foil scraps to blind a mate to fulfill his urges.
A dog trades tricks for a treat.
A little boy collects golf balls for a quarter each at the country club.
His sister trades candy for paints to better tell her story when her vocabulary just doesn’t cut it.
The farmer trades a goat for seeds.
The teens trade dares for kisses.
A ticket is needed for a ride.
I learned to barter my labor for Melissa Etheridge concert tickets.
A handjob for a drink.
A book for advice.
A credit line or two for an escape.
I bought a cat for company.
Picked up a man for better company.
Adopted a dog for even better company.
But I would trade it all for you.
You know who you are.
In Response to Alex (Pencil & Oil Pastels, 2007)
My grandma wanted a piece of artwork I created,
a moody surreal drawing of the first man I loved
colored in warm tones, his orange and red-hot body
staring at a cool blue-violet reflection.
She thinks it’s a self-portrait.
I guess in a way she’s right,
his hot blood staring at my cold cold core.
No wonder he couldn’t love me.
Whenever I come to visit,
while she always has to pack me a bag of groceries
from her bargain-bought overstocked overstuffed pantry,
while she throws in jars of peanut butter and expired snack cakes,
all I can see is the first man I loved staring me down,
the grown man who told me he loved me
but never let me grow up
so I could grow warm in his gaze.
Charles K. Carter (he/him) is a queer poet from Iowa who currently lives in Oregon. He holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. His poems have appeared in several literary journals. He is the author of Read My Lips (David Robert Books) and several chapbooks. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @CKCpoetry.