Here Below

By Sarah Carleton

Featured art: The quadrille at the Moulin-Rouge by Louis Abel-Truchet

Before a careless bulldozer buried him under a ton of dirt
he played with impeccable pulse.
He anchored tunes with a standup bass,

left fingers spidering, right hand patting pauses,
a running commentary that thumped below the chitchat,
bristling with off-color intent.

Just as hothouse plants rooted and swelled
to his sweet, muttered, nasty guy’s-guy nothings,
we set our feet in the soil of his crude jokes and thrived.

His wife didn’t pay much mind to the dirty stories
and sly non-secrets. When he laid their deck,
he penciled women’s names on the underside of the planking,

like an ode to abundance, and she just laughed, shrugging.
We take our cue from her and refuse to fret,
but celebrate him in smut and subtext.

Without crawling among the snakes to check, we hope
we made the list––divas of warm skin and rayon dresses
immortalized on a two-by-ten––

and we also aspire to be like his wife,
who stands aboveboard, rolling her eyes, knowing
her name has been etched more than once in that slatted dark.


Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, tutors English, plays the banjo, and makes her husband laugh in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, Neighbors: A Crack the Spine Themed Anthology, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was recently published by Kelsay Books.

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