Three Poems by Rob Carney

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Finalist : 6th Annual Contest in Poetry

All These Songs about Leaving———

why? The mountain doesn’t understand . . .
like being a lake’s a bad outcome for water,

as if the wind
is more elemental than rock.

No songs about bears,
their way of staying near,

of denning down for the winter.
Their noses set sail across an ocean of scent,

and that’s enough—
these woods, this snow, the horizon.

It isn’t jealousy.
The stab in its ribs isn’t that.

The mountain just wishes there were other ways of going.
Maybe longer. Or deeper. Or up.



Why the Raccoon’s Tail Has Stripes

A fox is a fox—bright
zigzag, cunning stomach—but who is Raccoon,

which way do his whiskers point?
You can knock all day on that question; nobody’s home,

just a key beneath the welcome mat,
and inside,

hanging from his ceiling,
strange chandeliers:

arrangements of keys and hoop earrings,
loose change forever going missing,

the silver promises of corkscrews,
laughter, desire . . . anything shiny.

All those years spent collecting—
here they are.

He isn’t a thief; he just looks like a bandit.
Take back whatever you like.

He knows his tail is a lesson in perspective:
Find it/Lose it, Have it/Vanish, making stripes.



The Story of the Forest and the Owl

The forest awoke,
having dreamed all night of hunger.

But its branches were still full of birdsong,
and the sky above full of sun,

and a passing cloud filled the morning with shadow
so even its edges felt cool.

The creek was there, full of music.
Nothing empty. Nothing without.

And yet the dream kept recurring . . . each night
a deepening ache . . .

’til one day the forest found a hollow
in one of its trunks

and something there nesting:
eyes like keepers of the moonlight, talons

like locks, soft feathers
but its body a fist—the first owl.

Born, as love is, from an unknown hunger.
Asking, as love does, Who?




Rob Carney is the author of four books of poems, most recently 88 Maps (Lost Horse Press 2015). He won the 2013 Poetry Prize and the 2014 Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Photo of snowy mountain and forest at sunrise courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.