Carol Hamilton

“Love demands a changeless object”
An endnote on Yeats

Oh, World! How our hearts
are broken young, these hearts
today, too … yours or his or theirs
or hers or mine. So long ago
when our change at last
became the deep darkness
of a new moon night
… and only then …
we learned how the heavens,
though silent,
glitter in full light
as always,
and we are the shifters.


“Road Past the View II” of Georgia O’Keeffe

The clean and spare colors of the desert
fill my white wall all these years, even now
with the cracked glass gone, scraped clean
with the economy of means you always used,
space filled with palest desert snaked only
by a curve of blue twisting towards extinction
or gathering with other waters, and behind
all this space hovers the purplish bulk
of the Sangre de Cristo, Blood of Christ,
where I learned to climb. Who, from the road,
would dream the high lavish valleys,
one silken with gloss of leaves caressing
our hips as we passed, descending
only to climb again. “It is all downhill
from here,” he would always say, but
it never was. Who would dream the two horses,
linked, shot dead in the Pecos River after one
slipped, both fell, and we hurried past them
a second time, after the owner ordered
his trail boss ahead despite the sign
forbidding the passage of all large beasts?
Who would think of our wet wool socks
held on sticks over the night’s campfire
as we nursed blisters and tried to prepare
for more chafing with moleskin and
antiseptic creams? There is no sign of life
in this scene of yours, but I people it
with lives there that you leave out,
our times of too much or too little,
and I chaff with the excesses of each.
This pared down work, really a cheap poster,
sings still to me of all the days we lived there
… despite all I deep-down know of them.


My Tortilla Stories

Not my heritage but the past lights
with smells and sounds
as if it somehow were —-
my daily walks to class
past a metal-on-metal squeal

and the scent of lye on dry corn where
the long line of women stood snaking
into the shop for free tortillas and how
my professors said should these shops
close there would be another revolution.

Or remembrance of the electric skillet
in which my Upward Bound
summer students and I bubbled and browned
our hand-patted and chanted-over
tortillas before slathering them in butter.

Or the voluntary Saturday family field trips
for elementary school Spanish learners
to the tortilla factory in the past-prime part of the city,
and that year the equipment broke down
and output was thrown to their long-abandoned machine.

We stood around the old man as he sat,
lifted and stacked the patties one by one
singing tortilla-counting ditties as they came,
“veinte, veinte y uno, veinte y dos, veinte y tres tortillas…”
in slow production but still swift

compared to work in the circle of Tarahumara women
we came upon palming out their products
seated on the ground at dawn in preparation
for the Copper Canyon train to come through
bringing hungry and buying tourists later in the day.

They did not lift their eyes or acknowledge
our passing as we hurried off to ride horses
but continued to pat pat their corn turned to treasure
far richer than my sentimental memories
which, nevertheless, fill me with longing.


Carol Hamilton has retired from teaching 2nd grade through graduate school in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma, from storytelling and volunteer medical translating. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 19 books and chapbooks: children’s novels, legends and poetry and has been nominated ten times for a Pushcart Prize. She has won a Southwest Book Award, Oklahoma Book Award, David Ray Poetry Prize, Byline Magazine literary awards in both short story and poetry, Warren Keith Poetry Award, Pegasus Award and a Chiron Review Chapbook Award.