30 aUGUST 2011


Beginning with Garden
Middle Finger
Small Green Grass Snake
To a few of the people who picked up me and my friends hitchhiking in the 1960s

About Carl Little



Beginning with Garden


For now I am set down
in perfect coils
of new garden hose,
no temptation yet to live
others’ lives: a lumberjack,
Don Juan, a writer
of supernatural tales.

Geese cross the lawn to the sprinkler
where sisters shrill away the cold.

It’s a beginning full of grace
I’m given. Even
ailanthus, trash tree,
has a lovely symmetry,
and new shingles shine 
around windows trimmed a bright green.



In the beginning
a barn door slides open
on silver wheels.
In the dark hangs the scythe
that will drop tall grass
to its knees.

Everything can be fixed,
made to stand straight
with cane stakes
or raked into piles
and set aflame.
Soon I will witness the rout of trees

in autumn, how leaves
turn to smoke.
But today a wind
clears the sky of any cloud.
Father, kneeling
to tamp down onion sets,

wears a bandanna
against the sun
while my mother’s hat
floats back and forth
along the fence where she
dead-heads the roses.



And I can't make out where one coil begins
and another ends:
the hose is always circling.
Dizzy, I'd like to ask,
when will the pet raven arrive

that befriended me?
And Josephine, gentle goat,
staked to the shade
of a wild cherry tree,
where is she?

Somehow the poor thing
will knot the chain
around her neck
while the bird grows back
the necessary feathers to fly.



Middle Finger

Pitcher & catcher converse through gloves,
bottom ninth, no
score, bases
loaded, no
outs. Says
leftie, muffled
by leather, “We’re
major fucked.”
His teammate, still
mumbles something—
“settle down”?—
trots back
to home plate
to squat again,
to flash

middle finger
between his legs,
not a pitch sign,
and sweating man
on mound
nods his head,
loses fear,
rears back &
gives up
a grand slam,
smiling (into
his mitt)
as ball goes
“outta here.”



Small Green Grass Snake

            Great Spruce Head Island, Maine

Slithers through the grass, although
slithers doesn’t do its movements justice—
maybe glide or ripple or shape-shift,
so delicate, thin, moving up the path
ahead of our footsteps.

God or someone saw the shape in the grass
and called it green grass snake, an easy
ID compared to, say, Bactrian camel
or nudibranch or ocelot, all part
of Paradise, which makes me think

of the poor snakes of St. Croix
enjoying reign of a virgin island
looking up one day to find a mongoose
in their path, which proceeded to rip them
skin from skin, brought in

to clean up Eden, a Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
nightmare for the serpent crew,
an injustice played out by man
playing god. The ghosts of snakes
rattle the dry corn shakes while here

a slim slider of light-green hue that
wouldn’t know a mongoose from a mole hill
heads off to the left in search of edibles
in the northern kingdom of Great Spruce
where no one holds dominion over nothing.



To a few of the people who picked up me and my friends hitchhiking in the 1960s

To the oral surgeon somewhere in Connecticut who told me
his art was sculpting children’s faces, I’m grateful
you didn’t reach to pinch my cheek, but left me
at an exit outside Hartford.

To the car full of yokels exiting a racetrack in northern Iowa
that stopped for three young men and didn’t leave us
tied up in an underground bunker,
we appreciated the ride.

To the hippies in the VW bus who shared a joint on the way
to a Band concert in upstate New York and who
didn't have a meeting with Charlie Manson,
much obliged for the high.

And to the guy who drove Pete and me from Iowa City to Frisco,
detoured through Estes Park without a thought of mailing
our ears to our parents, hope the West Coast
was everything you dreamed.




When Gomez Addams kissed his way
up Morticia’s arm after she spoke
something French, I made a mental note:

broad smile and sharp pecks
from wrist to neck—that was the way
to make love to a woman.

Later moves ran a bland gamut:
slow dancing, locking eyes,
a bit of begging. Never came easy,

pitching woo, but whatever woo was,
I wanted to be the ace hurling
curve balls that had brunettes

falling into my arms where they’d sigh
“mon amour,” signal to my lips
to start their ascent up the smooth arm

like Gomez with his pale bride, his smile
flashing as he imagined the rack
in the next room where the loving happened

in a house sadly not at all like mine. 



is the author of Ocean Drinker: New & Selected Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2006).  His poems have appeared in Puckerbrush Review, Maine Times, Hudson Review, Off the Coast, the Binnacle, and Words & Images, among other publications; and he has been featured in two anthologies edited by Wesley McNair: The Maine Poets and Maine in Four Seasons. In 2000, he received the Acadia Arts Achievement Award for contributions to the arts on Mount Desert Island, where he lives. And in 2010, former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser selected one of Carl’s poems for his syndicated “American Life in Poetry” column. In addition to writing poetry, Carl is the author of more than a dozen art books, including Edward Hopper’s New England, The Watercolors of John Singer Sargent, and, most recently, The Art of Dahlov Ipcar. A native New Yorker, he is currently director of communications and marketing at the Maine Community Foundation. (photo credit: Anina Porter Fuller)