Poems by Helen Carey


The window with the light left on
inside gets mistaken for the moon
when driving by quickly, peripheral
vision on the way
back home. Clever trick, shining,
hiding dust storm forms surrounding
it, swallowing whole hallowed fields
into the dried-up ground. Living rooms
and restlessly
burning lamps, bright things
left on in spite of night, spilling over half-
shuffled decks and soaking up half-
opened eyes fooled by well-played bluffs
on the drive home,
ending finally
with the winning hand: a stranded
jingle shell island, harbored in
by frayed edges, burned blue-
stained paper, urging me
to turn the page.



The pull from the stars, the eternal elemental
woven tension left
unsnapped and unbroken
found us by the end of night, outside, covered
and draped over with the winding weaving
paths of a million empires and negative suns
piled upon one another like streamers stretched across
an empty room,        tense and taut
in the space between, that familiar magnetic hold.

On the other side of the porch all the empty
chairs laid out in a patchwork constellation, phantom
whims of the day’s blinding conversations, consolations
and cocktails, still
sitting in all the shapes of summer’s socialization
blueprints etched in cement.

Swooping black bats overhead and at the end
of the street in front of a parking lot, someone
put out the garbage, old red elementary school chair,
no blueprint,
just left there facing the flat blank house across from it.

We took it and set it down the middle of the cul-de-sac,
dead end circle mirroring swirls
of torn clouds overhead, explosive Van Gogh halos
tightening in the watery sky moving
away from us
as we sat down in the old red chair and waited.


When we were born we just found each other that way. We didn’t have a choice to be anything else. And then when we arrived, cross-legged, jagged-brained, blowing out smoke on a stranger’s stoop, we had no choice, either. I didn’t know if we were something beautiful or not, something evil or not. I thought about how awful it must have seemed, the way we passed around the cigarette from one hand to the other, both of our hands, making two in all, stretching up arms that led to the same human torso. We were skilled at being one, but knew in our hearts that we were two.

I had never seen our mother before, only knew her. I knew the plotting, shrieking, ugly thing inside her but never the outside. Born blind and split, I was. Couldn’t see. Not whole. And she reminded us. Reminded me so bad that it made me happy that I could make my whole world invisible. I would never know how evil we looked. Reminded me so much that we cried every night until she couldn’t take the wet tears, the dripping sniffling dirty tears anymore and drove us away. Far. And we were scared and I couldn’t see where I was. We found a stoop, rough and large. And the first thing we did was pray. Continue reading “Split”


The current state of the economy seems to perpetually weigh on the minds and wal­lets of many. There is worry, a sense of uncertainty that makes us guarded, brac­ing for some sort of future hard knock that could throw us off kilter.

Soon to be graduating, I too have fallen victim to thoughts of unemployment and financial woes. However, recently I was re­minded of a simple truth: everyone deals with a lack of dough differently. Potential coping mechanisms include begging, bor­rowing, job multitasking or, as I experi­enced, stealing.

This past summer, I was the victim of an inattentive subway Pick-Pocket.

It was the type of crowd that accumulates after all down-town businesses spew their employees out onto the sidewalks at the end of a nine to five day. The release is short-lived. Almost immediately, all move en mass to the tube lines below. There, weary and in need of a decent dinner, we stood back to back, waiting on chipped concrete islands for a train that would take us to our next destination and, eventually, home.

Nothing separated the encounter from anything else I had come to consider nor­mal commuter chaos. Gritty metal smell, faint perspiration, someone breathing on the back of your neck as you push forward towards a yellow line, make a dash towards snapping doors. Inside, everyone plays some sort of unspoken etiquette game in which one is not allowed to make eye con­tact with other passengers. Instead, focus shifts to ads featuring beaming Chinese women, women who learned English as a Second Language in ONLY TWO WEEKS. Instructions on how to pull the dangling emergency brake cord (tempting, despite no crisis being imminent.) The flickering of overhead fluorescent lights. Movement of pixilated graffiti scrawled on uneven brick walls.

Though not allowed to acknowledge other passengers, one is allowed to stand close to them. A new rule, set to replace eye con­tact, states that where there is space, there is opportunity for another rider. It is under­stood that bodily boundaries are wasteful. Such borders could house another arm, leg, shoulder, torso, if the occupier would be so kind as to allow it. So, we allow it.

It makes sense that I wasn’t aware of a hand being added to the mix. It is also under­standable that I wouldn’t feel a subtle shift happening in my handbag, a stranger care­fully groping the last bit of untouched terri­tory in the cramped car.

My trip was short, my stop the second on route. I got off quickly, eager to get on my next mode of transportation: the bus. It was only after I had gotten back to my house that I noticed something was off. While search­ing for my keys, I realized that I had been unzipped. The interior pocket of my purse was wide open, its contents splayed out in all directions. I didn’t recall ever opening it myself, let alone hastily grabbing at what it contained.

It was then that I realized that I had almost been robbed. I say almost because what the thief managed to steal was of high utility but little cost to me.

He stole a maxi pad.

Why? I’d like to think it was a fluke. Per­haps he saw the bulging pouch and thought I was packing wads of cash instead of wads of thick, feminine products. But alas, I was a poor woman on my period, not a rich lady hauling twenties.

My mind reeled with plausible sequences that could have followed the encounter.

Did he realize his error and immediately drop it onto the grimy floor?

Worse, did he shove it into the front of his coat without a second glance?

Even worse, upon pilfering it, did he smile a little on the inside, watching me exit, know­ing I was none the wiser?

Did he make the discovery on the next plat­form, surrounded by New Yorkers who are not phased by anything – not even a dirty man, frozen with shock, holding a crumpled, pink-wrapped sanitary napkin in his out­stretched palm?

Did he remain unaware of his mistake until he was alone, back at the abode, ready to add it to a growing pile of embezzled items?

When he pulled out the pad, was he disgust­ed with himself more for what it was, or the fact that he accidentally pinched it?

When he pulled out the pad, did it make him question why he was a Pick-Pocket in the first place? That maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling him it was time for bigger and better ventures?

When he pulled out the pad, was he pissed at me?

I don’t know. What I do know is I am lucky he took the only disposable possession I had.

Future lessons gleaned from the experience would involve being less oblivious to my sur­roundings. Furthermore, I plan on continu­ing to stock my odd purse compartments with maxis. Enough with trite practices involving money hid in your socks. I recommend that all people, female and male, cram their pock­ets, wallets and bags with pads. Banks may fail, Stocks may crash, Recessions may occur. Nevertheless, as I have demonstrated, lady wares protect in more ways than one.