Three Poems by Michael J Carter

Ghost Bus: Iiyama, Nabekura Plateau, Nagano Prefecture

A bus still runs its full route,
on roads cut through rice
and asparagus fields, the driver
still generates a pension
impeccable in his serious uniform
and white driving gloves. We all wave
when he drives away, Japanese style
two-handed, broad palmed. The only secure
bit of the language I’ve acquired in one day.
Our host tells us that no one ever boards
the bus, it remains empty all day,
every day, but keeps running
as a monument to the hope
of revitalization like that part
of me that remembers to call
my dad before I remember
that he’s dead. Sometimes,
I even say, Oh shit, its Sunday
I have to call him when
I get home. My dad’s favorite story
about his own father is how once a month
his dad would put on his suit and
go to the bank to pay off the loan
on the farm that failed. Ghost money
paying for a ghost farm, tilling
a future, seed pods empty as this bus,
prompt and hopeful.


Smell the Lilacs

Clicked on the burner
for tea and walked outside
to smell the lilacs at the end
of the driveway. An old craggy
bush, neglected by the landlords,
with both white and purple blossoms.
They opened yesterday
the same day I received
a note from my sister:
I just wanted you to know
that Mom’s headstone
was placed yesterday
at her grave. All day
The rain came in bursts,
grief-like, and now the sun
is setting over a saturated field—
bright green, shadow green,
a crab-apple tree is gussied up
in spring pinks wrapped
in a factory of bees rebuilding
the world. Then I went back
in to make tea, sat by the window,
and let it go cold.


Resurrection: Back Home

I brought you back to life
and then I called you
celebrating the miracle of your rebirth.
You were alive, the way you were.
You said, I’m watching your father hang pictures…
That was the deal, he did that while you rested
but you were tired, wanted off the phone
and Dad was busy.


Michael J Carter is a poet and clinical social worker. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts Magazine, Western Humanities Review, among many others. He lives with his two hounds and spends his time swimming and knitting.