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Kerry Carnahan 

Devotion Road



Once I chased you with a death wish

Now I moonlight as


What does it matter if we were two women

woman and man, men or

what I believed:

an embrace so fluid as to elude 


A dream locked out of time

Fear in a distant throat


The phone is held a distance from the ear

Words like never, never once to my satisfaction


(but don't you leave

me as a lover?


or do you think 

are you dreaming to 



do you believe

your self

my superior)



Never, never once to my satisfaction— 

Altitude of that pure white rage 

sinking in           


and I must know something about it

because I can hear:

an old man's silver handbell 

blanging for coffee service and toothpicks

His spoon against crystal

shouting girls! 


A fuel oil fortune

amassed during wartime 

and a period of relaxed labor regulations,

heiresses talking radical feminism,

tennis, and the Important Thing 

Being is to permit the workers their anger.


I know that sound

I wont jump to it again


In the high clear ping of that 

perfect place

I hear a people with reserves of

deafening brutality

intimately lived out right 

now in what this insane phone now says softly

in the prolonged massacre we call our history on this continent

in this waking in an abyss of my own making like a 

monitor frantic with no signal 


At last I understand the larger arrangement 

why I have come here 

and I thought you were this thing that needed my protection 

will one day be the last thing I hear 





That familiar sound, of a blow

As if something soft, dark & tight has exploded— popped suddenly in your head

The moments after. Did this just happen to me?

Familar sound, sting


I dont understand, why. I asked this years ago. And the years—


And no I dont think I like that sound, sting—

where it—

on my face, cheek, neck, bruises on my arms, legs—

what is the difference

what is being fought, do I want to fight it, who am I

I fight myself

I dont want to say, no. I am not sure how to, plus I am


How mediocre this is


I am grateful for the company. 




Well, none of this will crush my belief in 


and as your memory grinds away 

across the Smoky Hills

with it at long last go my final reasons 

to be anything but unequivocal: 

Ive been raped three times

Generations of silence are beaten into my shins and

obedience slapped into my face 

Not a week passes some 

man does not spit fucking bitch at me and

you and your hands among them

What does it matter 

except a cry in the fields 

Two shotgun blasts 

I must shake

the ice off my breasts 

I must learn to face it: 

not one man was more intent on 


the truth of my life 

than you /

each night


coming closer:

this thought






I have no tradition to shelter me


No shade tree for cover


I have no water to return to


I have no water


But look, I have this one thing:


no water






Grandmothers I said spirit

grandmothers I said

grandmothers Im left with

no other word

cracked like an egg

held intact by a

membrane translucent

as my skin

the last page of

a book

My power is out 

no light no water 

I have no heat my phone is dead 

Im in a white woods

None of this is figurative

none but the winter jasmine 

thrives here

Snow piles in the windows 

heavy and white as these blossoms but

odorless, odorless

as darkness

as a hot bitter 

blossoming in this cold cabin

sixty white throats bulged with pollen 

Three candles lit inside 

of a mirror 

the reflection of a flame is 



I have six white pills left 

and the white ways are choking us out

I crush the pills

I swear 

on what remains

can you hear it in my dry 

bitter breath

Are you the shaft of ice light

screams through 

my spirit 

— 2014 

Kerry Carnahan.jpg

Kerry Carnahan is from Kansas. Her poems have recently appeared in Boston Review and New Square. She was a runner-up in the 2017 92Y 'Discovery'/Boston Review poetry contest and her work has been supported with a Fulbright Scholarship and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship.

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