Carolyn Stice 


Still Life with Roaches

You open a drawer and you find one, not one but a collective of beady-eyed staring bastards. 

Their antennae undulate in your direction. They taste the food particles on your breath.

Their ancestors once tasted dinosaur breath.

This is not really a still life. This is finding a nest under your daughter’s bed, and nearly punching a hole in the wall but stopping because she is watching. 

It is not a fair fight—chemicals against population mass.

You are alone.

What is this really about?

You do not remember. Something about food, or God and justice. 

Or the story of another woman on her knees, scrubbing her way toward an afterlife that may or may not reward the pious and the bored. 


I want to live with wild things

I do not want the echo of asphalt     on my knees 
the smell of exhaust 
in my hair 

Turn the blare of the horn       into bird call
the car      into a small brown fox
darting     across my path      at 6 a.m.

I want dirt    leaf     rock
pounded     into coal     packed earth 
I want branches overhead

the rattle of      my body 
loose in its skin     all sinew    muscle and blood

my ragged breath mixing 
against     the vibrato pulse      of Tennessee hills

cicada buzz      of late summer heat
the stripe of sweat    cool
and slick     down the spine     of my shirt

I want my dogs     tame as they are      to run       
with old wolf     smells in their noses     
I want them       to feel
what it is

to be savage      I want my girls 

to remember it too:       their delicate edges
forgotten       the sunrise curve      of their shoulders    
brown and glossy      lean and strong

I wish them       the mouse corpse 
on the trail       the stinging nettle       the blackberry
I want them to know      the bloody scrape 

of thorn on palm     the price of sweet fruit. 


When December leaves you longing      

for spring, you can at least have 
a hot shower at 1 pm the water 
calling you back to the Médanos de Coro 
where you gulped and gulped
from the facet, knowing 
it would rot in your gut, but unable 
to stop after months of cheap plastic bottles. 
You can have the girl-dog’s head in your lap,
her eyes soft and muzzle
sleek, nose twitching to catch scent 
of your breath. You can have
the eagerness of her body, her curving 
spine calling out, “love me, 
love me.” You can have the shimmer 
of goldfish in their tank, plump 
and fortunate, where they were once
weak and burned black. You can wake
to a small hand on your arm, a high voice
telling you how purple birds sang in her dream, 
and you can have too, the lean 
hot body of her sister tucked through the night,
her smell of pears and milk flowing over your sleep. 
It is true there are clothes 
on the couch and dirt on the floor. That the belts
squeal in the truck every time it rains
and that your husband just found a nest 
of black widows in the yard. 
But you can have that precious hour 
while the children sleep, can have
ginger tea and winter tree branches swaying
against crisp blue sky
that color which comes only with the cold.


Carolyn Stice is currently working on her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at UT Knoxville, where she served as poetry editor for their graduate literary magazine Grist. She has a particular interest in the work of female poets, especially that which deals with the landscape of the body. She is also working on a project translating the work of women poets of Venezuela. Carolyn’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cutthroat, China Grove, The Clark Street Review, Antipodes, Painted Bride Quarterly, Permafrost, Booth, Electra Magazine, and Stirring: A Literary Collection.  


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