Jared Carter


Named after his dad, who walked on Wacos
and Stearmans in the Twenties, and hovered
above county fairs and Moose Lodge picnics
holding on with one hand, waving to the crowd— 

B-17 with 26 flights out and back suddenly
on its 27th return taking heavy fire through
the fuselage, evasive action, no functioning
navigational instruments, no way to get back

and night coming on, but no engine damage,
and enough fuel, yet no way to get a bearing,
no sense of where England lies—crew peering
into the haze, everyone quiet, not talking—

so he takes her down, down, down toward
Deutschland below, down into open farmland
to treetop level roaring along and looking for
a chicken coop, knowing farmers everywhere 

are the same, that its windows will face south,
and sees one at last, and knows where west is,
and takes her back up, and at last they can find
the way, and know they are headed for home.


This story was told in the town where I grew up.
There was this young bricklayer from Slovenia
who came there in the Twenties and worked hard
laying brick while everybody else was playing
around, having a good time.
                                             Most of the other
bricklayers stole bricks from the job, built
houses with them, stole cement, stole tools,
but this man showed up on time and always
put in a honest day’s work for an honest dollar.
He kept cutting corners, banking his paycheck,
saving for the day when he could get married.
And then one day they put up a sign on the bank
that said it was closed.
                                     Nobody would get any
money back, it was simply gone, and nobody had
any work anyway.
                               He had some cash hidden
in a coffee-can, and he went to the pawn shop
and bought a pistol, and told everyone in town
he would shoot the banker—who still lived
in a big fine house, and rode to work every day
in a Pierce-Arrow, and claimed it wasn’t his fault
that the national economy had gone to hell.
The banker’s friends all watched out for him.
The bricklayer never really got close before
somebody tipped the banker off.  He would slip
out the back door when the bricklayer came up
the front stairs.
                         This went on for three years.
Then one day the banker kissed his wife goodbye
like he always did, and drove to the office,
and went up, and wrote a note saying how sorry
he was about everything that had happened.
Everyone in town had blamed him all along.
He had begun to think that they were right.
He took a small revolver out of a drawer.
at that moment the bricklayer burst in on him—
“Drop that gun, you son-of-a-bitch, I’ve waited
all this time, you’re not going to cheat me now!”
and fired three shots, shooting out the glass
in the picture on the wall behind the desk
but otherwise missing him completely.
                                                           The air
was thick with gun smoke.  The bricklayer stood
weaving back and forth and finally tossed
his pistol into a wastebasket.  The banker
put the revolver back in the drawer.  The bricklayer
sat down and began to shake.  The banker shook, too.
They both began to weep.
                                         When the cops arrived
they were sitting there taking turns at a bottle
of brandy the banker kept hidden in the drawer.
The cops sat down with them and finished the bottle,
and then they helped sweep up the broken glass.
I wasn’t born yet, it was just a story people told.


We leaned gasping for breath, with thick flakes
swirling around us—snow coming down hard
through the streetlamp’s cone of light—and clung
to the old Chevy, unable to push it even an inch
from the curb, while the tires whirled and whined.
He got out and said, it’s no use, boys, we’re between
a freeze and a thaw, it’s neither ice nor water now
but something in between, changing back and forth—
and I wanted to be far away from there, far from
four-sided Hoosier weather and howling winds,
wished to be somewhere up high, looking down
through the clouds at the land itself, invisible
and changeless, and the faint lights far below,
showing the way between darkness and dawn.

Jared Carter

Jared Carter's fourth book of poems, Cross this Bridge at a Walk, was published in 2006 by Wind Publications in Kentucky.  A Midwesterner from Indiana, he has published poems in such literary journals as Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, TriQuarterly, and a number of online journals.



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Last Updated: Sep 16th, 2007 - 08:34:32

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