“When fear rises,” “What counts,” and “A Forecast of Severe Storms Today”

Photo by Wojciech Bobrowicz on Shutterstock

When fear rises

I’m driving through a fog.

Home to public school, I

travel up and down hills,

the 45-mile-stretch

like an obstacle course

to test resolve.

I need this cloudy patch,

not as a puffy mattress,

but as an iron shield,

armor to keep

fear from taking over,

fear like punctured tires

draining all the energy

out of me before

I get going.

The fog moves

this way and that

like monstrous mutations,

mountain-sized mirrors.

I do not see the road

ahead. I hold on tight

to the wheel. The view

looks murky.

I slow down speed

rounding the curves,

check the impulse

to drive head

strong into the laced veil.

Breathe. Hold up the veil.

Let it fall like a marker,

the white line

in the center

of this country road.

If I didn’t have this fog,

if I saw everything ahead,

instead of what is right

in front of me, the dip

in the road would cover

me up like the bottom

dropping out from under me.

I look forward to this drive.

The fear rises early

in the morning. Thick clouds

of tiny moisture patiently wait.

I’m on the road,

following a moving map,

no shortcuts, no turning back,

once I travel with this guide.

“What counts

in every corner,”

the speaker writes,

as she offers verbs from her

grammar teaching, mental

notes from her long years

of linguistic knowledge.

She lets go of period punctuation,

because, at this place in time,

her sentences are absent,

like a moment of eternal vacuum.

Trying to gets sounds in her mind

onto the page, she looks down.

She has dropped her phone

on the floor, her words

no longer encased

in prepositional phrases.

Her hands shake.

The confusion of the unmanageable

chaos lingers like a life

span of errors printed on the page.

No greetings, she sighs,

an interjection.

An easy forecast of pain,

she senses she must carve

work into space,

write nouns to speak

the fear in plain sight.

Live for a time in the ugly.

Subtract the adjectives,

she says. Things will be clearer

once mistakes are erased,

feelings shouted out.

Leave the empty to speak

for itself. Pencil in—

in lower case—the unshapely


She knows the coordinating

conjunctions will come.

But for now, leave room

to shape the old and unselected

non-material day.

A Forecast of Severe Storms Today

Shorebirds glide in formation,

twice circling the water crests,

not ready to land in search of food.

They shape the sky like their canopy-laced

feathers cover the water bed

inches above the sea.

These little birds repeat their routine,

flap their wings,

while waves thunder

in rolls, crash along the shore.

Youth sport a volleyball game.

Feet firmly planted in the sand,

one player jumps to make a kill,

slips into a fall.

The volleyball spins

now that the wind

has picked up speed.

Adults inclined on sand dunes

watch the play.

Why does the ocean pay

no attention to the audience?

The waves roll, crest, break,

moment by moment,

infinite in movement.

The wind bursts with thunderous

roar whether anyone

is there or not to heed the call.

The flyover of the birds,

the symphony of the waves,

the orchestrated breath of the wind

keep on into infinity while

creatures, even in danger

of human extinction,

like the Ukrainian musicians,

tour across Europe in concert.

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.

Read more work by Karen Carter.