Mark DeCarteret

The Year I Went Without Seeing a Ghost

In the past I’d leave a hat on the bed and that was that. As if I had handed them my card. Or put out some hard candies, a mat. Not that I really saw them. They were like veils that fell from the ceiling. Or a shadow on the chair where for centuries they’d sat. Notions batted around between worlds. One where they’d been diminished to little but fine dust or shimmer. With a bit of luck catching the eye of an ex-girlfriend’s cat. Or the ear of a second cousin, far removed. And another where they were cashed in on by head shake or stat. This ramshackle memory a few of us were still sold on. But only those whose hearts. Always felt threatened. Made themselves utterly available. Lacked for any other kind of a calling. Who’d shake watching a leaf shuffle the light. Fuss too much over a butterfly’s suffering. Or get lost in the resiny stare of a horse. Only to be left with this feeling. Of life siphoned out file by file. Like the wind had gotten too strong of a hold. And what was always thought inside. Stowed away like some words, or worse, names in the throat. Now dined on that same world. We hadn’t thought needed. And so, denied us. Took up with another side.

The Year I Went Without Influencing Anyone

I would be kept up late into the night by a parakeet. Us two the only ones who knew the whereabouts of the newest draft. Maybe the only good thing to ever come out of a briefcase. Though, in retrospect, everything he tweeted me was a fib. Notes he repackaged to help lessen his grief. I took the capsules you left on the windowsill. Number three on the “To Do List.” In between relisting my stiffening self as a still life. And updating the light show for my power nap. Okay, we are finally recording. As luck would eventually have it. The forest having lost a step or two to the shadows. Here, some moss offering up its moist cough. There, this mound of leaves dumbfounded by our veiled threats. It all seeming to change when Nature started thinking of itself as therapy rather than art. Playing the smallest of parts in a play. I am so done with my blood when it runs outside my body. So done with my son. Doubling as me in yet another pathetic remake. A mop bars my way to the past. A chair regrets it kept taking these stands. And ended it ages ago. And this mattress keeps talking trash. A little thing it likes to call “The Stop Over.” And had made into a poster.

The Year I Went Without Hurting Anybody

3 more seconds of light. And we’d see if the wetlands had broken. Out a new décor. Switched out its field recordings. Seems the sun’s on everyone’s lips these days. Honeyed at its center. Sex doll pink overall. It thinks it fits in better on the strip. Where everybody gets everything their sponsors desired for/from them. So please cover me. While they revoke my star status. And I’m reduced to festival dancing. Doing voiceovers. Of primates once found in their natural environment. Or VIPs trying to get service in their limo. Now, I don’t sing. Or guest host my own how-not-to gone game show. Though its unavailability does me good as a segue. Or a fourth of fifth guess. I’d rather negotiate. And shake with resolve. You know, I still can’t believe James Tate won the Yale Younger poet when he was 11. As if he was stuffed. With the stuff of heaven. Blue bird strung out in a green tree. Its leaves shivering empathetically. Yellow fruit versed in red dust. Its stone not enough of a stone. To be thought of as stone. We weren’t anybody. A billion dollars in cash. Couldn’t shake off the lawn swing. And talked into taking a time out for eternity. Out the damp. Out the soft padding of night. Out the forest sleepy with rain. We’re all losing sight. Of all our belongings in the storage facilities. Holding us ransom. We can’t even try to explain. How, one thins ingeniously. Set on lingering. Like a shy gesture. A dryer sheet. And is never more alone. Than when one has made you believe. Anything. Already dreamed up by the dead. One is nothing. If not settled in by the window. Getting it all down. In the book we’ll soon have to close on the light. On what little fight we had left. Did you know when I was in the second grade I packed window putty so far into the ear of a classmate they had to take him to the hospital to have it dug out? Afterwards, when Sister Gregory asked me why I did it I said. That wasn’t me, Sister. That wasn’t me. To which she replied—if not you DeCarteret, who?

Mark DeCarteret was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He’s studied with Sam Cornish, Bill Knott, Tom Lux, Mekeel McBride, Charles Simic, and Franz Wright. He’s hosted and organized two reading series. Co-edited an anthology of NH poets. And was Poet Laureate of Portsmouth NH. Twice, a finalist for NH Poet Laureate. Prose poems from his manuscript The Year We Went Without have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Asheville Poetry Review, BlazeVOX (which recently published the first chapter of his novel Off Season), Gargoyle, Hole in the Head, Map Literary, On the Seawall, Plume, and Nixes Mate (which recently published his seventh book of poetry lesser case). He sang and played guitar for the Shim Jambs. And sings and plays drums for Codpiece.