Sarah Carleton – Four Poems



For the wild petunias, it’s always party time.
New blossoms appear each day.
They never run out of purple.

Breezy, arms raised, lightly planted,
they spread like cheerful children in a park
but yank out easily when it’s time to weed.

Troupes of them perform for hurricanes,
modern dancers swaying
and bending en masse

till the sun comes back out
and that pool of stuck rainwater’s
a beauty bath that makes them brighter.

I confess I invited these flowers—
they’re easy guests, an unsinkable
raft of bloom amid the mess.


Blue Came by Night

He painted puffy cumuli
flat bottomed in a sage-colored sky.

Orange enthralled him during the day
with spirals of swirling speckles;

tones of grey made head shots,
pocked iron and oil spills.

Sly yellow ochre impersonated gold,
crimson splashed and sashayed

and all shades came finally
to spatter-paint the kitchen. Careless,

he left the evidence—brown on the pans,
vermillion on the dish towels,

violet on the teapots, cadmium on the cabinets,
green on the linoleum floor.

Late afternoon, his palette bled
pigment into the sink—

afterglow of many hues—
but blue waited till nighttime

and kept him up till long past
the hour when the bats tucked in.

He caught cornflower jewels,
cerulean fish, sapphire bubbles,

indanthrene shadows. Cobalt globes
rounded his ragged edges.

He had pthalo for oceans of well-being
and navy to call forth a starry sleep.

True, he remembered to clean his brushes,
but when I awoke to streaming sun

I found clues in the drain basket:
watery strands of blue.


In the Night Forest

Red pines
sketch constellations
like rows of pencils

Branches on top
to hold cicadas
in place.

You sleep underneath
the planet-hammock,
head in arms elbowing

You lie with your eyes
tucked in and listen
to the needles


Surprise Visit

My mom surrounds herself with color—
Oaxacan animals, quilts, rugs woven from bright double-knit rags,

and her own watercolors, which can make a pile of grocery bags
look like the lifestyle you long for.

New Englanders shift in their graves
to see her centuries-old house painted yellow.

She’s found a new way to wear the ruffle scarf I knitted
—flattened out over her narrow shoulders like a rosy cape—

and she keeps forty birthdays’ worth of funky earrings
displayed on the dresser year-round in case we suddenly show up. 

At eighty, she still heats with beauty.
We give her gifts just to see her glow.

My mom’s surprise is as vivid as a sunrise
when the four of us rap on her door one night in February,

our toes burning from the cold.
Her “Oh!” goes through shades of joy

like paint cards fanning magenta to orange.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Like a lot of people, I’ve been consumed by politics lately. For every news story I read or phone call I make, I pad my core with a little more beauty. The trick to survival, now more than ever, is to hold onto music, color, art, and language. Beauty is not a luxury; it’s vital—it’s how we honor what’s important even as ugliness breaks out around us. Writing poetry, knitting, and playing music keep my blood pressure smooth and the little flame in my heart glowing hard.


Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo and raises her son in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Off the Coast, The Binnacle, Cider Press Review, Nimrod and Tar River Poetry.