Spring 2001


Rhoda Carroll


Terrible clatter, the sound of kitchens and thunder
lashed together, centrifugal.
Something races toward us fast:
Happiness? Death? Look how loosely
those logs are strapped.
What are these words we've sawed off?

Flatbeds piled with stripped pine
drum hard as they slam over potholes.
Anything tied can break free
and no love lasts standing still.
This we know, balancing a cargo of luck.
The freight-bearing axles groan.
We are fully loaded,
and all that shrieking is just the weight
of what binds us.



Rhoda Carroll

LOUIS L'AMOUR, 1908-1988

Your men ride horses sweeter than women
and women more crystalline
than snowflakes. Out from Missouri
they break down in their wagons
but your hero, broken from his solitude,
takes care of them, chops wood
for domestic fires he loathes

and craves. Against the south wall
he lays out, lovingly, the lines
of a kitchen garden, greens
to trap an easier breed.
The real husband,
tripping over his still-stiff lariat,
loves him too. It will all
turn out right.

The manly set of jaw, the woman's
blue dress whipping about her legs
in Wyoming: no different than a pas de deux,
such restraint. A time pure as green air
pours down from those high meadows.

Louis of Love, your imagination
taxes snow to become more
than snow, but the roar
of blizzard in those pines
is nothing but winter.

The stranger and the woman
send up showers of sparks at every glance.
He retreats from heat into advice:

Ma'am, he says,
sleep with one eye open. Those braves
like the color of your hair.
Come spring, I'll be back
to see how you're gettin' on.
Take good care of that boy there,
and your man, luckier than he knows.

Than we all know, Louis.
The stranger rides due west,
sunset making his invisible
tears look especially wet.
His horse's hide glows red-
gold, one sustained note
on the permanent horizon remaining
in the eye long past twilight.

Rhoda Carroll teaches writing, literature, and art at Vermont College in its interdisciplinary, low-residency, independent-study Adult Degree Program. Her poems and stories have appeared in Texas Quarterly, Louisville Review, American Writing, Slant, Beloit Poetry Journal, The MacGuffin, and many other literary magazines and several anthologies. Recently she has been following an irresistible desire to make abstract paintings in watercolor and pastel, and she has had group and solo shows in Vermont and Virginia. Two of her early pastels are online at http://members.nbci.com/jpallen/Drawing/Rhoda.html.



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