joe carson | no. 52

6 07 2011

POETRY DISPATCH #348 | July 5, 2011



I watched the first sunrise
I remember seeing last week.
I am thirty-five.

I’m up at sunrise, I have
a job that ruins my wrists
and two children.
By sunrise, I am already busy.

Once, I sat awake for
a month of sunrises
that began with a call
from the youngest: Mama..,.,
The child got sick
he would not open his eyes.
His room faced west.
I watched—I counted—sunsets.

He is thirteen now
and mows for spending money.

So, Saturday, my husband and I
left the house before dawn.
It was my birthday, my choice,
my present, we went fishing.

I love fishing.

The pain was in my wrists
but casting a fishing line
is not the same as
dis-assembling chickens—
that’s their word for it–
on a factory line. My job.

There we sat, me shivering,
In the dark with the crickets
and a rim of bright pink
lit the mountains so quickly
I didn’t notice it coming.
It looked like an accident.
What’s that? I asked.
This sounds so foolish now.
That light. “The dawn,”
my husband said and laughed.
I wept, I couldn’t stop myself,
I don’t ever remember seeing
a sunrise before.

“Happens every morning,
where on earth you been?” he asked.

Cutting up chickens.
Raising children.


Jo Carson

is an American playwright, poet, fiction writer, and actor, as well as the author of three children’s books. Her best-known play is Daytrips (1991), and her poetry is collected in Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet (1989). Her story collection The Last of the “Waltz Across Texas” was published in 1993.

Jo Carson was born in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1946 and received degrees in theater and speech from East Tennessee State University in 1973. She lives in Johnson City. Her books Liars, Thieves and Other Sinners on the Bench, Spider Speculations: A Physics and Biophysics of Storytelling, and Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet were published by Theater Communications Group. The Teller Tales: Histories, from Ohio University Press, includes two stories from the American Revolutionary period written for storytellers. The stories are particularly relevant to East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

Carson also has a collection of short stories, The Last of the Waltz Across Texas, from Gnomon Press. Her 1989 play Daytrips won the Kesselring Prize in that year. Preacher With a Horse to Ride is included in the anthology Alternate ROOTS: Plays from the Southern Theater edited by Kathie deNobriga and Valetta Anderson from Heinemann Books. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States. For almost twenty years, she has worked with communities to create plays made from stories collected in those communities; she may be the most commissioned playwright in this country.  Information about the community work can be found in Spider Speculations and Liars, Thieves.

Carson’s books for children are Pulling My Leg (1990), You Hold Me and I’ll Hold You (1992), and The Great Shaking (1994), all published by Orchard Books. The Great Shaking is an eyewitness account of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812, as told by a fictional bear.

She is anthologized widely. She was an occasional commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered for several years. And she is a founding member of Alternate ROOTS.



8 responses

6 07 2011
Job Conger

It must be a horrible job that ruins the writer’s wrists and two children. 😉

6 07 2011

I remember her book from long ago; thanks for refreshing my memory of a great writer.

6 07 2011
Jean Casey

Incredible photo. Clear and lucid poetry to match. Welcome back…..Jean C.

6 07 2011
Leonard Cirino

Had never heard of her but I don’t read much contemporary. Quite a beautiful poem — with tinges of sadness — just like life. Thanks and best, Leonard

6 07 2011
Jeffrey Winke

Her poem captures the too-busy-living-life to see what’s going on. Nice.

6 07 2011
Sandra McPherson

Amazing how she can use carpal tunnel to draw in the sunrise and motherhood! After surgery on my right wrist, my left wrist healed too: the doctor says this strange phenomenon often happens. Just like this surprisingly cohesive poem….the body’s parts reacting to each other.

7 07 2011
Bruce Hodder

Lovely poem, even though as a Buddhist I don’t like the idea of fishing! (Who cares what I like?)

25 10 2011
Joan Crawford

I just love her. I read her poem “I Am Asking You to Come Back Home” when I was 18 and it has stayed with me all these years later. I have such an admiration for her; her ability to (forgive me, I am no poet) thunder through life, ordinary – painful life, with such (I am looking for a word that conveys unselfconscious hope and stoicism but I don’t know it) hard-earned dignity is remarkable.

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