Jane L. Carman
Jane L. Carman is the founder of the Festival of Language and codirector of the Publications Unit at Illinois State University where she received her Ph.D. and is a former Sutherland Fellow. She prefers writing that takes in genreless breaths and lives by rules that continuously morph into the unfamiliar. Her work can be found in Devil’s Lake, Santa Clara Review, Mixed Fruit, JAC, eilmae, Pequin,580-Split, American Book Review, Dirty, Dirty (Jaded Ibis Productions 2013), among others and is forthcoming in Palooka.
Festival of Language events: 2009 Chicago AWP; 2012 Denver AWP; 2011 DC AWP; 2012 Chicago AWP; 2013 Boston AWP; 2013 Lansing SSML; 2013 Milwaukee M/MLA; 2014 Seattle AWP
A reading eXperiment events: 2013 Boston AWP
stairs, they crowd below
house, drinking sour
rocks so round they rolled
down tumblers striking against
rib. Black picking at
crabgrass that tried to
anchor itself in
steps, Blues talking
circles in fescue,
Redbone sitting in
pot squashing Dolly’s
Blues cries up,
Corn, Dolly. Corn.
On the cob.
Black picks purple
head off clover, eats.
Redbone shuffles a
deck with pictures of ham
burgers on back. He deals.
Bullshit, says Blues.
Bullshit, says Redbone.
Dolly tosses cobs full of
steaming kernels. Catch.
cob. Hot, he says.
Bullshit. Field corn.
Blues tosses smack
“O prairie girl, whoever leaves you only crimson poppies to talk with, whoever puts a good-bye kiss on your lips and never comes back”
Born before woman, before man, her children rose above the horizons to sing her songs, as enemies placed concrete gags over their tender
mouths, sliced their language, and slipped it between her ribs pried open by the mechanisms of progress.
Before the new machinery, before the arrowhead, the disc, and the dust, children grew from her depths, touched the weeping sun, spun the
laughing moon, stood sheltered behind her skirt, and flirted with each glint, swimming in the margins of her reach.
Her gardens swelled with exploding colors, changing shapes, and easy textures. Satisfied, her stomach grew. She traveled in peaceful
turbulence guided by glad towering brilliance.
A thick carpet of black birds
fell from her magical bonnet—
they unfolded into the sunset
circled her body and veiled
the chanting dawn.
She’s shackled, tied to a shard of hope. Her jaws are forced open, poison poured into her order—cuts covered by bastardized posies that glare
like cartoon bandages, laughing as they unhook stitches.
Her own breath turns on her, blows salt separated from vigor into her eyes— she cannot tear. Her rivers shrink as scales fall from her eyes,
stilted open by steel columns of some tinny ology.
Hands nailed—she opens her silent mouth to swallow the broken children but receives a throat full of rugged ash and tin boxes of bones that sit
unopened like stale packs of after dinner mints.
Birds sleep in her embrace—
her magical bonnet is torn from her
hands as clouds of ashy memories gorge
on poverty. Their oily feathers shield her
unwanted children from her lover’s disease.
“And they tell me you are brutal.”
Prairie cemetery, myth cultivator
creator of tales with proud conviction
hot and still, cold and turbulent—brutal reality
a forgotten past, an unknown present
This is no where and every place. It is layers of truths buried beneath dark layers of ancient ash. It is the old ones hurling their weapons to the
surface in the glint of silver disks. It is the anti-pastoral. It is life creating death, death generating diluted life. Disallusion.
It is cancer coursing through underground streams, leaking into well water. It is a truth unrecognized, as that which feeds life creates the train
ride bouncing across broken tracks to its last stop.
It is the disease that holds the secrets of truth, the secrets of its own creation, the key to its power. The disease whispers the truth on the
breath of old prairie winds that circle the globe searching for their home—unable to recognize it, they glide over its past.
We are called quaint, charming, humble—but we, too, dine on creation, sift through soil to find treasures worth holding, cry for freedom that is
an apparition in passing. We, too, are a nation living in dark illusive shame.
We possess the strength of language sharp with accent, overflowing with a pride that perpetuates the dialect of nothingness.
So heavy is the myth, it morphs into a reality of time and place. So stealth is the cancer, we deny its existence, bury its creator in a casket of impossibilities, take no credit in its propagation—(dis)empower the villain.
Our arms are built hard against the thick resistance of labor, so strong pens inscribe our clichés into lives and our lives into clichés. We become
a history within a history, molded by our storytellers who still sit around tables in ragged diners forming their fantasies into new realities
that reek of old fables.
We are a forgotten past, an unknown present,
prairie cemetery, myth cultivators,
hot and still, cold and turbulent—a brutal reality.
We are the creators of tales with proud convictions.