“November Cloak,” “Between Being and Doing” and “Toilet Talk”

Issue 44 by Karen Carter

“November Cloak,” “Between Being and Doing” and “Toilet Talk”

November Cloak

Auntie Jane’s blanket,

attic stored, air cloved,

with her knitted cable yarn

she hums a morning tune.

Notes of royal blue, cream, black, sunshine yellow,

strike a melody, like a peacock trimmed in fringe.

Her knotted threads weave a story.

Careful folds

hang over a wooden chair,

a life layered

in gentle pursuit.

Her tiny cross stitches,

her nimble fingers,

her ponderings of the mind,

her eyes set,

frame each fabric.

I swing my shoulders

into her charm,

wrap her memories,

hug them against my bare chest—cuddle—coat—coo—like a newborn

dove breathes life, a lamb rests,

enveloped in nature’s bed.

Like soft cotton-candy wool,

her art sketches a worn path.

I cup my sleeves of hot chocolate, marsh-mellowed hands

inside her cloak to brush and caress her layered patterns,

like fresh fallen leaves color autumn hair.

Auntie Jane, with each square,

names a quilt of kindred spirits.

A little more than a century and a half ago,

women hearth-sitting,

stitch a way to freedom.

Between Being and Doing

Curly-haired child sits in diapers

on linoleum kitchen floor,

opens enamel stove drawer and peeks,

collects aluminum, steel pots and pans,

hugs them against her bare chest.

Adult female plays with wooden cubes,

makes Freudian slips on soft pillows.

In her therapist’s office of carpeted chairs,

she clutches reality with her checkbook,

enters a space destined for healing.

Writing disciplines her;

sessions throw darts at dulled senses,

focus the mind to hit the bulls-eye,

create respect for the pen.

In the stuff of child’s play with pots and pans,

an adult’s coming to terms with stages and ages,

space between dreams and language,

the pen waits to grasp the common word.

Toilet Talk

“I feel, you’ve put on a little weight,”

the toilet seat says, cracking up

laughing.

Five months into quarantine and toilet talk

comes at me like an approaching automobile hidden

by my blind side.

I know what triggered this English teacher’s

personification with the primitive.

I had just taken my clothes out of the dryer;

they felt a little tight when I put them on.

Two days ago, I drove to the pharmacy,

to get refills on my asthma medication,

before this 68-year-old active English teacher

goes back to school, all things remote.

At the pharmacy, one of my former students, Class of 2020,

came up to me, reached out his arm

to shake hands, saw my mask and stepped back.

He was not wearing a mask.

But at least now we were socially distanced.

We spoke; he said he was fine and moved on.

I think of this student sometimes when his words haunt me,

while I am on the toilet.

He said in class one day last winter, pre-COVID,

“Dr. Carter, I need to take a dump.”

Better I think of him and his words

than get fascinated with the dump,

psychotherapists would say.

This morning I go online.

I am enrolled in a course on teaching

remote learning, a practical guide, how-to lessons.

A male teacher from the northeast posts

a discussion board saying, “too much, too many resource dumps”.

Another dump.

I go outdoors to my favorite place, my open front porch.

I commune with the little lizards and dragonflies,

have written poems about them, two accepted for publication this fall.

Did I mention I live alone quarantined for five months?

I watch as a person drives by, dumps

a fast-food wrapper and paper beverage cup in the water ditch.

Already there is a paper plate from someone else’s dump.

But a frog knows how to think outside the box.

I watch the frog launch on the plate like it is a lily pad.

Today I felt empowered by the school district’s training

on the learning management system Canvas. I got it,

got started and did not feel like anything was dumped

on me. But then I came home and had no Internet service,

and after three and a half hours on the phone with

the provider and no solution, I felt the problem was dumped

on me. But the next day I called our school’s technology

specialist, and met him at the media center.

He knew exactly the problem: a glitch

in Windows 10. He found it in 10 minutes, fixed it in 30.

The Internet worked;

remote teaching training did not overwhelm me.

Yesterday I felt I should read T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,”

figure out the psychology of the trauma of the chess game,

as did perhaps, the teacher, when he posted

the overload issue, “resource dumps.”

It makes me ponder my former student’s toilet talk.

I take a deep breath, lighten up a bit.

Going back to school in the midst of a pandemic,

I am ready to launch my own rocket ship full speed ahead.

But a rocket ship releases carbon emissions,

soot into the ozone,

another dump.

After teaching training, I go to the water ditch and clean up the trash,

take precautions for the category one hurricane projected

to hit after the weekend,

some possible flooding and power outages, another dump.

About the Author

Karen Carter

Karen Carter teaches high school English in Tyrrell County near the Outer Banks, North Carolina. She was the first female to earn a PhD in religion at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia and is a seasoned teacher in post-secondary and secondary education. Her poems have appeared in The Broadkill Review, Miller’s Pond, Wild Roof Journal, and The Avalon Literary Review.