Turning Point

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Sample Poems by Carolyne Wright


After Harvard Square:
Eulene’s Bread and Circuses

What a smattering of culture
Eulene’s got. A chopstick here,
a tatter of Punjabi cotton there,
and on her walls, the latest
in the Vorpal Gallery’s catalogue.
Conducing, all of it, to what?
Not to the overpopulation of the heart,
or to the string-twangings
of the popular affectioners.
Not, surely, to Gimme lo-ove, LOVE!

No. Eulene stalks down the street,
her eyes burning the whole show
thin, her mind’s hands knocking out
the flim-flam frames that prettify
life’s knuckled force.
Sometimes she strays,
ghosting past the showrooms
where they plug salvation into stereos . . .

Until she remembers the bare
walls of early summer: sea
wind through an open door,
and salt-water light splashing
on patio flagstones, the swept floor.


Eulene’s a nun now,

kneeling in her college room.
No vows yet, and no vestments,
she dares to call the winter sun
down on her house. Let it sear away
the hashish smells, dog stains
in the hallway. That bummer,
memory, building its nests in the drawers.
Let it burn into the beer-bleared eyes
averted when Eulene walks in.
Fears that roll the sleeping bags tighter
behind Venetian blinds. Bullies
who look for victims in the mirrors.

Eulene packs her only change
of clothes, peels the labels
from her judgment jars,
the fist in her rib cage
clenching and unclenching.
She’s signed her soul up
for a job, reassigned all wakeful
questionings, quick-change artists
moving in next door. She holds
her bones to their own promises,
escape routes into the country
cordonned off.


Postmortem : Eulene

Occluded stars bully me
like ghosts among twilit half domes.
They mock my tongue
with honey and silver, bloodhued
moons and tree sloths
that unwrap their slow shovels

and plummet past the lustre palms
in a mottled swoon. Their tails
never did curl properly. So
what about the blood count
of the stars, the night’s relentless weather?

Cancún couldn’t let on about its revelers
under such yield signs, hedged about
with corduroy and sticky milk.
The scatter-bird snaps the quetzal’s
neck and panthers grind their incisors.
Only names whose conjure fires

ash out a superhuman scorn
jump ship and disappear into the port’s
labyrinth of alleys. New lovers move
to safe houses after curfew
and emerge next season

with land-legged suits, new pin codes
in their documents, new histories—
they’ve always been here.
Charismatic black sheep, the baby
in the brain cries Baby, its mother
opens her blouse in the Swiss-cheese

riddle of hymnals. Jezebel is the name tag
on the morgue’s latest arrival. So
why don’t I turn my face, rueful
blue but featureless, toward
the self-effacing cradle?



Woman , Money, Watch, Gun

Eulene’s lover wakes with a start.
Something missing: woman,
money, watch, gun.
His life deciduous as October
at the business end of a pawn ticket.
He’s always been embarrassed
by crosshairs and calibers
and the biggest hits by the Sex Pistols.
“Step on Your Watch” the last song
before the radio signed off.
His watch bleated every hour.
There was a tiny sheep inside,
white-faced and digital. He counted
on its liquid-crystal half-life.

Lately he’s been entering
all the contests: the cereal box-top
sweepstakes, the weekend jackpot
in lotto. He clips
the two-for-one coupons.
Eulene tells him, “It takes money
to make money.” That’s easy
for her to say, when half America
is living in its cars,
and he has hundreds of memories
of motels. He knows the IRS
is opening his mail, while he roots
in the coin returns of pay phones.

Eulene? He’ll never get rid of her.
She’s with him like facial scars
or DDT in his genes.
Even if he begged her to stay,
she’d see through him and do it.
Her name clings to everything
he thought was his. No one
should be as sure as she is
of what she wants: a gun, a watch,
a belt full of money,
the perfectly made-up face
of the woman who goes through
his pockets in his dreams.