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justin carter


Falling Is A Word For Our Patron Saint

We aren’t against the stability of the cavern. Long-haired, though, we know the only thing worse than loss is shearing ourselves & the only thing worse than that is the idea we could fall here & no one would know.  If the mistaken mother calls stalactite & you look up when she means down. If you trip over limestone & fall into a stream below, each of your bones cracking at the collision. Will you wake in the bedroom of your youth to the mildewed pictures of your grandfather, or will you wake to the silence of the caves? All that separates us from bottomlessness  is wire &  my father always said that if the only thing left is wire, the only option is to fight & die like roosters.  Don’t tell me if the  elms fall  in the  forest, or if the clothes still hang on the clothesline. No one is around to hear the answer when the body lies on the stone floor under miles of alfisol dirt.


The Whining Cave

There  were horses  painted  like  the  Texas flag, star  across one  eye,  &  a restaurant where my grandmother dined with Holmes Weems a week before he was murdered by his son-in-law. There were two wooden stands in town—one that only sold coffee & brisket, another that sold tacos.  In Sweeny, the river is  always cloaked by mud.  At night, drank  cheap beer  in the back of a friend’s rent house, a place we nicknamed The Whining Cave because the previous owner had left the back room in disarray—in one corner was a broken toilet, in the other a bucket to catch rainwater.  On the walls were drawings a kid had done, scrunched-up faces, hairless, with the words Do Not Whine You Will Be Fine written beside them in red crayon. Outside the house, when we’d get up   at four to walk to the  kolache shop, we’d always pass the barber, up & washing  his car, & he’d ask  if he could  shave my beard off, or if  I’d rather do it myself.  For fun, we  spraypainted Not Meth on abandoned homes & hoped the cops would waste their time looking inside.





Justin Carter is a PhD student at the University of North Texas. His poems can be found in The Collagist, Jellyfish, The Journal, Ninth Letter, and Sonora Review. He's online, sometimes, at http://justinrcarter.tumblr.com.