poems by Carolyn Adams

Not Dead, But Not Quite Living


I use time between departures

to worry about you, the way

we left it.

Refiguring history fills

my idle hours, and I wonder

if you’re glad for me gone.


Will you let me back in,

or am I relegated to the fringe,

here where I’ve slowly migrated,

where hard facts are unspoken.

It feels like safety, but it’s not.

It’s like living under glass,

suspended like an insect on a pin.

Not dead, but not quite living.


It’s not long

before I leave again.




36,000 Feet


Under a white wing,

sinuous river channels drift

through folded hills,

village boundaries are like seams

in an ancient map

laid out carefully below.


The cabin is quiet, passengers

are fed and patient.

Blue aisle lights mimic the blue

outside. Further away,

uncertain air in the distance

softens the horizon.


Cloud shadows on the ground

are an intricate calligraphy,

telling me how far I am

from all of you.


How curious,

the pull to turn back.

To step through the window.




Storms Over Red Wing


Mostly land and wind here.

Barns, silos, woodframe houses

float on a sea of plowed fields.

It’s the last of winter,

not quite spring.


A storm’s blown in tonight,

gusts slashing the house, crashing

the dead aspen onto the dairy shed roof.

Thunder rattles the loose sash

in the kitchen window.

Lightning rips tears in the black sky-plain above.

Out on the highway, semis like barges

navigate the channels

between undulating gray hills,

cloaked in rain.


That roof will need repair tomorrow,

that tree hauled away.

The downpour’s flooded the garden, muddied the road.


But it’s welcome in the fields

where crops wait,

like hope, to green and grow.






The clock in the hall marks

each drowsing hour,

and the housecat keeps watch.

Tucked under a warm blanket

and pastel sheets, I sleep and dream.

In the morning, there’s coffee

and quiet conversation,

here with my family that isn’t blood

but family the same.

We’ll sit on the porch in the sun

and watch for the rabbit that lives in the yard

as it travels its wild route

through the garden, under the steps

where the tulips will bloom,

and up on the deck, to stand

and watch us, twitching its velvet ears.

Looking me over,

learning who I am, adding me to the roster

of who is welcome here.




Don’t Wake Me at a Certain Hour


If the day is gray, open a door.

I want to taste the mist of the day

I’m about to live in.

It could be a mess, but that’s enough

for me.  I don’t want anything certain

in the early hours.  I’m busy untangling.

If you wake me while I’m lost in

whatever I’m trying to learn,

nothing will make sense.

Me, you, where we think we are,

why I broke the window or you

my heart – nothing will cohere.


poems by Carolyn Adams

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