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Four Poems by Bill Carty


through my eyelids 
yellow wall 
of sun was I 
in the drawing room 
from the book 
my head this way 
on instruction 

voice or light
the flower growing
part begonia
my left jaw
I was propped on
an impression
lying like some

above the autumn lake
beside a bush
caught the sun again
and opened my eye
to the map
a line of pain
from teeth
to chart

pinned to wall
I put it in mind
and placed pain
ceded attention
to the fingers
on my lap
tense and woven
to have them
tented is what
I needed

pad to pad
tip to tip
I wouldn’t clench
tooth on tooth
a single breath
I felt the sun
my eyes
I was not waiting
for a carriage



it was a strike
a ‘something’ strike
everyone was saying
‘I’m sick’
‘I’m questionable’

—I get that

it’s scary
how much
we missed

that’s one thing—
take care of everyone

—it’s a ship!

lift the whole boat

—good for both of you

so I sat
with it a while
I felt blank

—maybe you just say


—it’s hard to be here

it’s like
I want what
you want


or what looks good:


not the crowd
not winning

—they’re the same!

and now
I don’t feel like that
I can’t really be

—should we go
for a walk instead?

where’d you park?

—by you


how to walk in the snow

I’ve done a demonstration
where I head directly
across the lake

to the market and meet Mike
who I haven’t seen
in ages

he was sort of living on a commune
but last fall
bought a house by the river

he’s happy

now he’s trying to
commercialize that as well

he has company
what kind of company
I don’t know exactly

he really listens

and sometimes

it’s almost like
all talk
is an insubstantial

I relace my boots
and head back out

it’s almost like
to cross the lake
you’ve got to make each step
pertain to water



yeah I read it
but I was young

then I saw him
read it
and was embarrassed
for both of us

you know how when
you first get
get obsessed
and neglect
all your friends

it’s not like that
any more

—I guess that’s the bar

and I don’t like
that bar

the truth is
I get benefits

the truth is
I wanted to work on stuff that
I wanted to work on

—I love that about you

okay so this might not be
right just now:

it’s so hard to enjoy

—there are only so many summers

and it feels like
I’m staring through
the window
the protagonist

—all while
the real thing

is held within


held within
and looking out


Bill Carty is the author of Huge Cloudy (Octopus Books, 2019), which was long-listed for The Believer Book Award, and the chapbook Refugium. He has received poetry fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Artist Trust, Hugo House, and Jack Straw. He was awarded the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, jubilat, Best American Poetry 2022, Kenyon Review, Denver Quarterly, A Dozen Nothing, and other journals. Originally from coastal Maine, Bill now lives in Seattle, where he is Senior Editor at Poetry Northwest. He teaches at Hugo House, the UW Robinson Center for Young Scholars, and Edmonds College.

The featured image pairs “Olive Trees” by Vincent van Gogh (1889) with “Canoes on a Lake” by Winslow Homer (1897) — images chosen specifically for this piece by our Art Director, Meg Sykes.