Three Poems by Carolyn Guinzio

These three poems by Carolyn Guinzio explore the stage when collection plateaus and attrition is beginning. Less about the pain of loss than about what is essential, they ask: upon what does our contentment depend?

by: Carolyn Guinzio

When deciding where to live

First, consider the placement of mirrors. There are many
versions of the self from which to choose, especially 
if you are near an edge. Consider flora. Some plants
slow the breath, some ring the phone, bringing news.
There are many versions of the news. If the frame
of the mirror is ornate, you may have been retouched,
your infant shoes tinged with pink, your lips with ink.

Consider the book you will begin reading in your new
bed in your new bedroom. If it is heavy to hold on to,
heavy to hold in your lap, you might not yet be near
the edge. The dark lake you are sensing in the distance
might be a compound of softball fields, or a soft field
of pink primroses breathing open because they know,
somehow, exactly where they are. The book might be

soaked in something heavy. The lake is hard to lift,
but it isn't difficult to fathom. Consider the number
of stories you are willing to contain, how many flights 
you can take before you will no longer catch your breath, 
before your breath rings the phone. Consider how far 
you are willing to fall to get back to where you were before. 
Consider how vital is clarity. Consider the comfort of fog. 
The gap through which we must not drop

At the bay, there is endless
bread for the fish. Gulls
come, too, with their frantic
eyes and what seems a single 
lipstick smear in fire engine 
red that they stopped applying
almost before they began,
interrupted by a change
in the waves only they
perceive, beneath knowing,
as if they were called away
from a warped, liquid mirror 
to take their only chance
to see some brief and breath-
taking wondrous phenomena
that cannot be explained.
Too stale for even the least
among us, endless bread
bobs in the salted, slapping
water, in the sea's round heel.
No one has ever seen a place
that no one has ever seen. 
In the face of waning powers

Let seem be 
finale of be. 
We came home
just as the pill
wore off, took off
our glad rags,
our rings and pieces.
Our wings hung
on the wing hook,
airing out for next time.
The shimmer, high-
lights, bronzer and brows
are caught in a micro-
fiber cloth, the corrector,
concealer, the light reflector.

The shape-wear maintains
its shape on the floor—
a body outline where
pretense met its end. Earlier,
at the dinner, everyone
complained incessantly
about the weather. Under
the din, Doro's ghost muttered
that any weather is better
above ground. No one 
mentioned joy, or silently
wished the others joy,
and another ghost waited
at the edge of being
to take their orders down.

Carolyn Guinzio’s most recent collection is A Vertigo Book, (The Word Works, 2021) winner of The Tenth Gate Prize and ForeWord Indies Gold Medalist in poetry. That book included the sequence “The Strange History of Jenny and the Wisp,” a large section of which appeared in Across The Margin. Her work has also appeared in The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker and many other journals. Earlier books include Spoke & Dark, winner of the To The Lighthouse/A Room Of Her Own Prize and Ozark Crows, a collection of visual poems. Her website is

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