Slant | Vernacular


Lately you’ve noticed dust on the piano bench
as each day burns farther at both ends than the last,
the moon hanging earlier in the pale sweep of morning,

families staying later at picnics in the park.
Sunshine’s countable hours nearly equal dark’s,
but it’s the quality of light that changes you

like a pair of prescription glasses revealing a world
so crisp you’re waiting to hear it snap.
Palm-frond tinsel glitters overhead

and an anole’s throat puffs a red-brown ruff.
Even decay proclaims itself—
you’re drawn to bread-crumb garnets on the couch,

a gate dangling at a jaunty angle,
mold decorating a lemon with tiny cornflowers.
When a single chirp trickles through the window

at dawn, you rise and throw on a sweater
and step outside to see what color the sky is.
Last month you dwelled on the thinning of birdsong.
Now you follow anything that sings.


Month after month, we watched hibiscus varieties bloom
and repeated cosmic dancer, mandarin wind, painted lady, rose mallow

or just coined nicknames like rubber duckie,
mister pink, big red, and creamsicle.

Taking in any kind we could find, we cracked seedpods,
rooted cuttings, and hauled shrubs home in our two-door hatchback,

intent on spreading a spray of pigment over the backyard till coral,
cranberry, and egg-yolk yellow bumped heads

with ginger groves and bee-studded firebush spires.
Late summer brought an upsurge in those airborne petals we called

giant swallowtail, cloudless sulphur when we studied
the butterfly card and glidey thing, yellow flitty

when we were watching the fluttering confetti and winging it.
Effusing over this and that like we used to sweet-talk our cats,

we’d say, Good morning, little darty. Hey there, blue bee.
Nice flower, hardy biscuit. Snow queen, you are magnificent.

We fussed at aphids massed on buds as if combing fleas
from the scruffs of kittens, and the plants responded in kind,

feline in the sunshine, stretching out at midday all thick and glossy
and well-fed on our composted leavings and daily sprinkling.

The more blossoms widened and bugs flickered, the more
fluent we became, our language unzipping a whole new landscape,

so when Eta’s winds cycled through in November with a big-rig roar
and blankets of rain waterlogging every leaf, we knew her name already.

We looked upon our flooded yard and saturated colors
and thanked her for the dousing, and we meant it.

About Sarah Carleton

Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and makes her husband laugh in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Cider Press Review, Nimrod, Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was recently published by Kelsay Books.

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