Caroline Harvey

Caroline Harvey's writing has been featured in print and in film, including the national poetry slam anthology High Desert Voices, Harvard's The Charles River Review, and on Season 5 of HBO’s Def Poetry.  Currently an Artist in Residence at Berklee College of Music, Caroline is honored to have been featured at schools and organizations nationwide such as YouthSpeaks, The Esalen Institute, Northeastern University, Lesley University, UC Berkeley and UCLA.   A past member and coach of multiple award-winning youth and adult poetry slam teams, Caroline also works in conjunction with The Attleboro Arts Museum to facilitate writing projects for teens in foster care. She is especially committed to working with at-risk youth and survivors of trauma.  For more information visit www.carolineharvey.com.

 

Four Poems (April 20, 2011. Issue 27.)

How To Document Death

Make a list of everything that's ever been lost:
Your shoes outside a Dead show in Buck Eye Lake, Ohio.
Your wallet.
Your sight.

Make a list of everything that's ever been lost:
Your diary.
Your faith.
The watch your father gave you when you turned sixteen.

Make a list,
but never put people on it.

Always wear a respectable black dress
and a good winter coat
to funerals.
Bring an umbrella, just in case.
Don't wear heels, you might sink
into the earth.
Remind yourself how to breathe.
Don't look at the dirt pile.
Never, ever look at the dirt pile.
Don't imagine its weight or
its darkness.

Keep singing Amazing Grace in your head until it's over and
everything's in the ground.

Fixing Things

Woman,
give me your dimpled thighs.

Woman, give me your one stray hair,
your reluctant patience for aging,
your doubt.

I am hungry for
your ugly,
for your godly organ dance of
everything that is unsure.

I don't want your body to be lovely
or smooth.

Get it calloused, hard-edged.
Get it used.
Get it falling apart and crumbling.

Deliver me something that doesn't care about living.
I'm so tired of all this cling
to life.

What does god want anyway,
a bunch of creatures who don't know when to give up?

Give me your body when it's ready to quit.
Give it to me late in the game,
When there's no more hope left in it.
Give it to me in pieces and damaged.

Fixing things
has never been the problem.
It's the optimism that nothing will break
that kills me.

Of What We're Made

I do not know the science of
a heart, or why we call it broken
when what we mean to say is
cut me open, make fruit of me.

We pretend to be certain of what we're made:
this tangle of tendon and tissue,
these sprouts of hair, that hidden freckle.
And yet, when we are sleeping
our feet find each other without thought.
Through a bewilderment of dream,
sheets and distance, we merge.

We know the hinge of jaw,
how bones fuse.
We have named the fluid that floats
winged vertebrae away from
electric nerve, and we know without it,
we are raw spark.

But I cannot explain why the sketch of you
asleep on your back, vulnerable and uncovered,
is called love
when what I mean to say is
how are you not broken?

I do not know the way a body makes a forever promise,
but I can draw you a picture of a lung,
and I can kiss you until tomorrow and again.
Your wrist is a riverbed of pebble-shaped calcium and flesh,
but I do not always know when to hold your hand,
and when to let it go.

I am told:
we are some 100 trillion cells in constant evolution.
We are six or seven breaths every minute.
We are 35 million heartbeats this year.

I don't know how we can ever again say, I am this
when what we must mean is
We will never be just one thing or another.
How could we?

Did They Sing

This morning, over coffee, my friend and I talk of Noah
and of the surge
that disappeared the whole world.

We imagine the impossible list.
The wooly creatures.
The numbed, clinging lovers.
The merciless rattlers.
The creatures with nighttime wings.
The frantic chaos of paperthin insect swarms:
the beetles and the ladybugs,
flapping, flapping, impotent.

We hold tight to those favored few,
marooned together
on that ramshackle boat in the sea.
We ache for them.

Surely they weren't all faithful to a rainbow and a whisp of a cloud.
Not with so much vast, indescribable nothingness
and wet.
Surely some of them must have wanted to dive in and
sink.

We ask each other,
how would it be, to have been chosen by God
to live,
when others were not.
To carry abundance as your burden,
to know it is your place to begin everything
again.

Surely some of them must have fallen, or
jumped.

We wonder if they dreamed,
or did they nightmare.
Was their sleep festering with fear
the way mine is sometimes.

Or did they laugh together and tend to smiles,
the kittens and the baby chicks pecking and pouncing
at their feet.

Or did they sing--
the humans and the monkeys and the wolves
rising their voices up
all together,
conjuring light from
the blacked out, inexhaustible moon.

Yes. We like to think that
some of them
must
have sung.

The Legendary