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CAROLINE PICKER

Caroline Picker (she/her) is a queer parent, poet, community organizer, and fundraiser for movements for collective liberation living in Southern Vermont on Abenaki land. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in West Trade Review, Pensive, Tikkun, Make/shift magazine, and the anthology Queering Sexual Violence.



DANUTA

The skinheads have muscles and numbers

but I have a handbag holding a lunch tin,

coins, a stack of papers

the boss demanded by tomorrow,

trauma, and no more fucks to give.

Here I am, just Danuta,

wearing loafers, pleated skirt,

wool coat with shoulder pads and wide lapels.

Later, a thousand people threw eggs and tomatoes

and chased the Nazis out of town.

Whatever comes next, I give you this:

a swing saying not in my town,

saying never forget,

saying no and no and no and no.



ECLIPSE

for Gaza


I am not punitive by nature.


But I have seen my own children die,

a thousand exploding stars,

and I cannot watch another.


The buildings split to rubble,

the rubble falls,

the dust rises.


Have you ever heard

the noise a child makes

just after

everyone they know

is lost to ash?


I’m not proud,

but I turned away, blocked my ears,

let millennia of my own cries

shudder the clouded earth.

They could not see

that it was my mouth

from which they rose.



EMERGENCY KIT


We packed what we thought we needed:

lavender essential oil, new pruning shears,

a longing for plants as kin, work as purpose,

friends that catch in your teeth.


On our way back, just before the tire popped

going 80 on an upstate highway,

days after the clouds turned green

and the hail came down,

we had felt like we were almost there.


No one stopped to help,

but we had mixtapes and a spare.

In all my wanderings, I have never found

the right lever to pull or flag to unfurl

that means teacup, and home, and this, and more.



THE FIRST TIME I MADE STRAWBERRY JAM


I lived in a moldy barn / with people I wouldn’t call friends or family / strawberry season comes thick / in the pulsating of June / ripe berry a riot / too red to be bloody / exuberant with the stomp / and glisten of belonging / the jam was thin / tooth-boringly sweet / like pride, like freedom / it is not a thing / that one can make alone


THE WEIGHT OF TEN THOUSAND MOUNTAINS


My grandfather’s last words to my father were:

why didn’t you do more to help your sister?

My father carries this like any chances have passed,

the weight of ten thousand mountains.


I have spent enough time and money on the right kind of therapy

to know that corrosion is a desire welled deep within,

which is really about what is left behind,

that even wanting freedom for our own children is a healing,

that being chosen means you never get to choose.

The driving nail in my jaw is my grandfather’s remnant—

he who saved his girlfriend’s little sister from the camps

and married her instead, because how else to get her on the boat,

how else to get away but to get on the boat.


He chose to translate those last words

through me, for some goddamn reason:

Don’t you understand


it all feels like death


and our people

always

have to do

whatever

we can


to keep

whoever

is closest

alive.



THEOREM


if coming through


if opening


if ice-tipped hemlock boughs

if ganoderma on beeches

if deer scat, if bobcats


if holy

if true

if you if we if could


if laundry, if dishes

if mud and salt—


we are coming  we are not ready

nevertheless we arrive






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