Two Poems by Maari Carter

For Sandy, Who Never Got Her Dance

What you’re told: it was rat poison,
a little more and she’d have thrown it up
. Instead

her mother decorates her grave out in Carrollton
at Hickory Grove every Christmas, has for the last

forty years. So you go, because you’re fifteen
and there are worse traditions than a dead girl

who wanted a boy’s damp hand against her back
before he deployed, had only meant it enough

to scare them, make them regret not letting her go.
What you’re not told: this is only one version

of grief, and it’s electricity haunts the pine thicket;
the injustice in re-hanging wreathes

older than a person feels like a fuck you
to the chances of days, the accidental graze

of life’s sweet ass and songs even stars dance to—
that you’ll want to burn it, the dented

reindeer antlers each inch of limp garland, the guestbook,
filled with names who came flaunting their pulses—

that you won’t understand how headlights
can be desperate, how for every bloodflooded chest

there’s a gymnasium, with cardboard cutout stars
falling from its rafters, faking the night sky.


For My Mother, Who Didn’t Provide a Forwarding Address

Every two hick town has orphaned mailboxes:
bills, coupons, TV Guide subscriptions scattered

over the hot blind earth, so no one thought
to wander down the gravel to your house,

decaying among overgrown persimmons and witch alder—
close enough to notice frayed window screens

under your carport or grume smudges on their panes.
I open the door you didn’t bother to lock, when you moved

to Memphis with the truck driver from Wisconsin,
which sends a Diet Coke can, its tab inside, clinking

into the dining room past dried dog shit and the leftover
dead: Abby, muzzle full of blowflies, intestinal fluids

seeped onto kitchen’s cheap vinyl, maggots dragging
the beds of her sockets, teeth still rooted

to blood drained gums, green-boned ribs
sticking out from her gas cracked chest.

The other two, Chinese Cresteds, side by side,
one further along than the other, both bloated

and stiff with rigor, lying beside a heap
of empty Marlboro cartons and fast food wrappers.

Outside, dirt dobbers buzz above the nest-ridden concrete
and grandmother’s Sweet Narcissus lean

against the porch. Belonging to you is a sucker punch,
and there is an us that won’t go beyond today,

except when I feel you in my habits:
when the coffee strainer grows green mold

in my maker, cigarette filters slosh
at the bottoms of months old bottles, and dead fruit flies

confetti my refrigerator— or when I feel
some faint umbilical current, from a day tinted

with dogwood pollen; filled with grass juice smell,
when you held me steady on your shoulders, while I plucked

pears, hanging from the highest branches
and gathered them in the folds of your redwarm skirt.


Maari Carter is originally from Winona, MS and attended The University of Mississippi where she received a B.A. in English. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Florida State University.

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