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.


jo carson | 54

6 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 32 | November 24, 2005

A cold ,winter morning in Door today. Ten above . The power went out at 6 a.m. Fumbling in the dark till daylight. Fierce wind blowing all night, whipping through all the bare branches, screaming to be heard. Birds flying backwards. White caps leaping in the bay. The dog running like hell ahead of me to get back in the house from our wind-thrashing morning walk. Home alone and happy in my confines, time and place, coop and house. Thinking of my good woman UpNorth doing her traditional holiday with kids and grandkids, of friends and family (my own kids and grandkids), scattered everywhere on this good earth. Thankful indeed that the sun shines, the wind blows (still), and the power has just been restored, enabling me to tap out this message in time. Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s something from a favorite writer of mine to give us all pause. Praise the here and now. The persistence of story. Norbert Blei

by Jo Carson

I am asking you to come back home
before you lose the chance of seein’ me alive.
You already missed your daddy.
You missed your uncle Howard.
You missed Luciel.
I kept them and I buried them.
You showed up for the funerals.
Funerals are the easy part.
You even missed that dog you left.
I dug him a hole and put him in it.
It was a Sunday morning, but dead animals
don’t wait no better than dead people.
My mama used to say she could feel herself runnin’ short of the breath of life. So can I. And I am blessed tired of buryin’ things I love. Somebody else can do that job to me. You’ll be back here then; you come for funerals.
I’d rather you come back now and got my stories.
I’ve got whole lives of stories that belong to you.
I could fill you up with stories,
stories I ain’t told nobody yet,
stories with your name, your blood in them.
Ain’t nobody gonna hear them if you don’t
and you ain’t gonna hear them unless you get back home,
When I am dead, it will not matter how hard you press your ear to the ground.

from STORIES I AIN’T TOLD NOBODY YET, Theatre Communications Group