5 Poems by Lizzy Carraway

                     Definitions for Your Mid- to Late Twenties

Success: n., becoming your parents, or surpassing them
    Synonyms: Responsibility, Comfort, Pleasure, Notoriety, Riches, Immortality
    Antonyms: Struggle, Conflict, Disappointment, Envy, Reality, Flesh 

Contentment: n., realizing that you don’t have to be successful
     Synonyms: Abandon, Calm, Slow Breaths, Acceptance, Nonjudgmental Observation
     Antonyms: Anxiety, Guilt, Regret

Self: n., a shifting construct, always evolving to fit new contexts
     Synonyms: Memory, Friendship, Family, Adventure, Lessons, Vulnerability, Love, Humility, Complexity
     Antonyms: Security, Stability, Assurance, Simplicity, Definition 

Anxiety: n., a heightened sense of every moment’s ambiguity
     Synonyms: Young adulthood, Liminal Spaces, Change, The Future
     Antonyms: Television, Popularity, Stasis, Comfort, Boredom 

Depression: n, the ultimate expression of fear and anxiety--that what we can’t know is a black and bottomless truth
     Synonyms: Resignation, Nothingness, Malaise of the Spirit
     Antonyms: Feelings, Hope, Child-like Curiousity, Awe, Hobbies, Pets, Exercise 

Children: n, our truest selves. Also, see “anxiety.”
     Synonyms: Messes, Questions, Convictions, Imagination, Play
     Antonyms: Stacks of Paper, Emails, “Grown-up Jobs,” Taxes, Bills, Seriousness 

Exercise: n., what children do for fun and adults do out of shame.
     Synonyms: Met and Unmet goals, Sore Muscles, Commitment, Self Esteem
     Antonyms: Cookies, Sundays, Hangovers



My friend Hannah gave me the word
Beautiful women gave me the complex 

I remember
As a child
Looking at a Pepsi ad
In Redbook
The woman
With apple green eyes
And those thick
Carmine lips
Corners lifted up
Just so
Like hospital sheets. 

I had learned
From friends at school
That my lips were thin
Would always be thin 

My father’s coworker
Meditated on the woman’s body
You know why she’s that thin?
It’s because she drinks Pepsi!
The grownups laughed
I missed the sarcasm 

Even now
I see women like that
Women who catch
Like a cough
But it’s more than the bright eyes
And luxurious lips
It’s what the women do 

Hips swaying freely
Hula hoop bouncing
Floral skirt twitching
With every drum beat 

Or her
Clacking into the office
Heels like ice picks
Self-assured smirk
Leading the way 

Or--at last--her
Holding her child
Breasts swollen
Eyes soft
With incomprehensible bliss 

I see each one
Awe in my eyes
Envy in my stomach 

But then
Washing my hands
In a public restroom
I see little eyes
Staring at me
In the mirror
I allow her to stare
Then I change my mind
I won’t be admired 

I look her in the eye
And smile
I want to tell her
You don’t need my makeup
I may be grown up
But I’m not better
You’ll understand
Instead I say
Aren’t you pretty in your dress?
She smiles
And clutches her skirt



Your elixir, Epicurus
Scours the mouth like seawater
Covering each abrasion 

Your ossified face
Deflects emotion
Don’t fear the Gods
You tell me
Nor death
Remove all feelings of pain

And yet 

Do you envy the sharks?
Their ancient, onyx spheres
Fixed on each flitting tail
Ready to consume 

Or the seahorses?
Females approaching
Twirling and drifting
Until a cheek touches here
A tail there
And at last the forceful act
That ends in tails entwined

What about the whales?
Crying sonorously
Child suspended above the water
Rough canvas scratching skin 

And what of those two-legged witnesses?
Their eyes the only connection
To a watery past
Tongues stretching and flicking
For more

Sometimes do you want to
Taste the muddy flavor of a bad mussel
And slurp it down with bourbon?

Do you miss the hollow ache of the sea floor?

It misses you


                                  We Are Not Stewards 

We are too scared to think
This is all an accident,
Our minds
Ignited by chaos,
The irony of logic.


This universe
A fussed over quilt.
The reality lies beneath,
A tangle
Of roots and dirt and breath.


Nothing to harness
This flash of life.
No care for the sandcrab
Perpetually digging,
Nor for the cat
crouching and blinking.


No care for the humans
Moving with purpose,
Building and tearing down,
Loving, hating, killing, believing,
All to survive.

                            Driving through West Virginia

Chestnut-colored cows rest on a hillside, a plywood cross hallowing the ground.


Imagine me, legs planted atop that hill, feet bare and earth warm, belly facing the sun. Maybe that will be my mound of earth, my cross. One day, should my womb form its own life-giving mound, I will teach that child to love without reservation, to create life from soil, to sit in silence.

But these hills might never be enough. Maybe I will tire of the landscape, watch it get flatter until I smack into it and create a small tear. Perhaps I stare at that tear every day until it grows into a cave, winking at me beyond the pastures. Then I might crave the crowds and noise and stench of humans living one up against the other.

The scene passes and it is just me cradled in the cool leather seat, elbow against the window, head bobbing to the music and lips tracing the words. This is where I fit.