Wendy Taylor Carlisle


Say someone suggests you use words besides your stock ones, make those intractable words a part of your anatomy. Say, toe for example, call that a digit, and at a distance from the foot, your thinking brain—call that cerebral cortex. You’ll use both feet and head for a substantial stance. Don’t say nose, but beak or snout or schnoz, the name your Nonna used when you were inattentive, in a reverie.

Say there were other ingredients in your family dilemma. Say mother/father/ Deoxyribonucleic acid, but say you know the distance between your foot and a dictionary. Then say you loathe being asked to up your game and quantify that breach and say you think of that question as a lie waiting for its secret.

Say this is like the time Mother read letters you hid under your mattress, or the time your Nonna said menstruation in front of your friend Frank. Say then, you could cast your shame and letdown in concrete, and give it to someone who would put it on an atoll you never have to visit. Say that yard art was your childhood.

Say it was also a plague of grackle, icterids that gathered over her grave on the day your Nonna was laid down. Say then how you waited for consolation that never came. Say you also waited for the succor in old words.

But say you sift through the wreckage of your language, the tidy, sure phrases that mean what they say, the clichés you could pass over without a second glance, and they’re buried in new locutions? Say then you close your eyes.

Don’t you see a blue sky?’ Don’t you long for bird, and toe, and head, and nose? Aren’t you grateful for ‘and,’ conjoining as it does a person in their skin, with that grandee you hear you ought to be?

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of four books and five chapbooks and is the 2020 winner of the Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Award for The Mercy of Traffic (Unlikely Books, 2019)See other work in Persimmon Tree, pacificREVIEW, The Atlanta Review and others. In June, Doubleback Books reprinted her 2008 book, Discount Fireworks as a free download. https://doublebackbooks.wordpress.com/discount-fireworks-by-wendy-t-carlisle/. Her website is www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.