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My Father’s Blue Sweater

He hasn’t been alive for over twenty years
but suddenly, here he is in this room,
smelling of Marlboros and mints,
wearing that blue cardigan,
faded and soft, slightly frayed at the cuffs,
the one I brought home after his funeral
and wore for weeks without washing,
not wanting to lose the scent.
He is reeled back on his heels
reciting Emerson by heart,
dark eyes wide, unruly eyebrows raised,
long fingers outstretched, smoothing the air.

From What You Saw and Still Remember, Main Street Rag Publishing Company © 2017

I am delighted and honored that my book, What You Saw and Still Remember, was the featured book review on Poetry Breakfast, my favorite daily poetry site.

You can read the review, along with a couple of poems, here.

One of my poems is featured today on Writer’s Almanac. What a thrill to hear it read by none other than Garrison Keillor! 

 

I’m thrilled that my poem “Directions Back to Childhood” is featured today on Zingara Poetry Review. Thanks, Lisa Hase-Jackson!

Zingara Poetry Review

Turn left at the first sign of progress
and follow the old highway
along the Stillwater River.
When you hear the whistle of the train,
take a right and cross the covered bridge
that leads to the rodeo grounds
where the silver-maned bronc
caused so much havoc the summer you were ten
and the ghost of your grandfather’s jeep
rests behind the bleached-out grandstand
choked with blackberries.
As you round the corner into town,
there’s a white picket fence
laced with lilacs. Walk through the gate.
You’ll see a blue and white Western Flyer
lying on its side in the middle of the sidewalk.
It will take you the rest of the way.

Judith Waller Carroll is the author of What You Saw and Still Remember, a runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Award, The Consolation of Roses, winner of the 2015 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press…

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In honor of Father’s Day and in memory of my father, W. E. Waller, here’s a poem from my chapbook The Consolation of Roses (Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, 2015).

Daddy’s Whites

Those Sundays I’d walk the three blocks
to the Columbus Hotel and wait on the wide porch
among the palms and ferns
till the last of the diners filed out
and Daddy finally waved me in.

Then I’d sit at the polished oak counter
while he poured himself a cup of coffee
and one of the waitresses—Billie,
Candy, Evelyn—slipped me a thick slice
of cherry pie a la mode
or a glistening pile of French fries.

I loved the yeasty smell of the kitchen
and how handsome Daddy looked in his whites,
splattered with grease and gravy, but each crease
still as sharp as his favorite knife,
the one he carefully washed while I watched
from the doorway, dried with a clean dish towel
and rolled back up in his apron.

I don’t remember how long it lasted,
Daddy changing every weekend
from his teacher’s suit and tie
into the stiff, white jacket and pants,
and only vaguely why—the poker playing
at the Atlas, how he’d sometimes disappear for days.

It’s those Sunday afternoons I remember.
The taste of ice cream against cherries,
Daddy’s grin as he joked with Billie,
how he’d switch off the kitchen light,
take his rolled-up apron in one hand, my hand
in the other, and we’d walk together home.

Eat this Poem

One of the poems from my new book What You Saw and Still Remember is featured today on Nicole Gulotta’s wonderful blog Eat this Poem, which pairs a poem with a recipe. My poem “Lemon Bread” is paired with Meyer Lemon Rosemary Cake. Yum! While you’re on the site, sign up for a free download of sample pages from Nicole’s book with the same name as her blog featuring “a feast of recipes inspired by poetry.” Fabulous food and inspiring words.

Winters here in Arkansas are mostly mild, but this January was colder than usual with a week of temperatures in the teens. Imagine my delight one freezing afternoon when a package arrived in the mail with the gorgeous anthology, In Plein Air, a collection of poems written in and about the outdoors. Perfect reading material for a cold, gray day. This limited-edition, numbered, black and white book edited by Arlyn Miller and Susan Gundlach and published by Poetic License Press is reminiscent of hand-crafted books created in letterpress. The paper is thick and textured, and pen and ink drawings illustrate each poem. What an honor to be included in this beautiful publication. Here’s my poem:

Church Camp off Season

by Judith Waller Carroll

A pair of carp glimmers
just beneath the calm face of the pond,
two upended canoes wait on the bank.

In the distance: a slender bridge
suspended like a hammock
between two stands of elms.

A breeze shivers the reflection
of shuttered cabins and autumn trees,
the ochres and reds so soft-lit

and impressionistic, I half expect
to see Renoir or Monet on the tall bench
at the edge of the water,

daubing more blue
onto the already perfect sky.

I’m thrilled to share the news that my poem “Dimensions of the Heart” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Gyroscope Review, where it appeared in January. Thank you to editors Kathleen Cassen Mickelson and Constance Brewer for this tremendous honor.

Dimensions of the Heart

A blue whale’s heart
is the size of a male gorilla,
but human hearts are measured
in more fanciful terms:
as big as Texas, hard as stone.
Soft. Sinking. Restless.

My own fickle heart
craves solitude in a crowd,
company when I’m alone.

All those years by the ocean
and it only wanted mountains,
the smell of blue spruce.
Now it yearns for salt spray and sea weed.
A mild winter. Fresh crab.

Or maybe those whispers of longing
really come from the soul—
that immeasurable space
somewhere between the mind,
with its reason and logic,
and the hollow muscular organ
pumping blood through the body,
oxygen to the brain.

These days, travel doesn’t hold the appeal it once did—long delays at airports, scrunched seating, massive traffic once you reach your destination—but thanks to cyberspace, I can vicariously visit the world through poetry.

I’ve taken online workshops with poets from Japan, Norway, Germany and Cyprus. A little gem of a journal featuring Viet Nam poets serendipitously arrives in my inbox every so often with poems in Vietnamese alongside the English translation.

My own poem “Ways to Keep Warm” is currently visiting New Zealand, where it is included in the Poems in the Waiting Room series and placed in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, medical offices and prisons.  Thank you, Ruth Arnison, for this wonderful ministry.

“Ways to Keep Warm” is also included in my new collection, What You Saw and Still Remember, coming out this winter from Main Street Rag.  Go to the “Samples” tab to read poems and “Comments” for two wonderful blurbs. And, of course, click on the bright orange “Add to Cart” button to order your copy at the astoundingly low price of only $8.

 

 

 

Fourth of July was my father’s birthday.  It was also the day of the annual parade down Main Street. 

The Fourth of July parade was a big deal in our dusty little town, population 1200, where not much of significance went on most of the year.  But on Independence Day, there were flags on every street corner, and the gazebo in the park across the street was festooned with red, white and blue bunting.  Townspeople, ranchers and folks from neighboring towns even smaller than ours would gather in the park and along Main to watch horses, floats, kids on bikes, baton twirlers and the Columbus High Marching Band wend their way from the high school, past the creamery, down the six blocks of Main, and then across the bridge to the rodeo grounds.

And at the head of the parade was my father, holding the American flag and sitting astride his white horse, Zephyr, who looked every inch the regal steed. Every block or so, the parade would pause while Zephyr danced sideways, strutted backwards, reared up, then came back to the center and took a bow. The flag, nor my father, never once lost their composure.

 My father was as natural on a horse as he was in his classroom teaching or with his fly rod fishing the Stillwater River. He would be perplexed by all this controversy over dressage and whether a dancing horse is an art form or a parlor trick.  It was just part of his Montana lifestyle. And one of the many things I took for granted as his daughter.