This is a selection of unpublished poems sent to (and rejected by) a variety of prestigious literary journals.
All poems © J Hardy Carroll

you want it this way

you want it his way
your poor heart… you say it’s poor, now
ripped from your hand
where you held it aloft, exposed
waiting for almost anyone
to pluck it and drop it into a bushel
carry it… where? If only a question
of blood-lust, of settling old scores
where is your sugar-pie now?
is she sitting at the table
heart pie carved with apple slice cleanness
equal parts of different size and shape
would you feel too much better, then
parted asunder by feral dogs crouching beneath the table
they used to live
in safety
unseen in the crawl-space
heart pie, full of gristle
and old, worn bone
pulled reluctant into bed after bed
barely warmed by your sweet corn smell
set to linger in the sheets, in bottles
head for the door

run while there’s time

Buster Keaton, Strapped to a Train

It was an old movie I saw late

sitting in my grandmother’s old chair

silent Buster Keaton with sad huge eyes

wan on the cattle-catcher of a steam engine

plowing toward the camera, down the tracks

crossed with rail ties, a sure and deadly hazard

and all he can do is reach down to flip each tie to the side

just as the train is about to hit it, derail everything

his face slack as he reaches to grab a pile of ties

at the last possible moment, and there are more and more,

the ties piled higher and higher in stacks of two and three

and I now sitting on the edge of the soft cushion forgetting

it is only a movie, caught up in the peril of what can come next



that man’s face is gray and he gloves
his rain-pattered beggar’s slice
of cardboard while rummaging his pockets
for Top, so hard to roll
in what is now a downpour
he is forced to smoke just the same
as he is forced

to everything


In And Out of Airplanes

The axles smoke uphill,
buckets of black slush sluiced judiciously
when the road turns steep

lest the animals balk
pulling harder against the traces
stop all together, strand the traveler

red faced and raging. The staved
bucket instead swings from a pintle
grease black, wrought and hammered iron

I touch the side of the jet
hunch into its narrow belly
nodding hello, eye the rows

breathe the cycled air stale.
Some magazine said three
out of four Americans believe

they will find their soul-mate
next to them on an airplane.
Maybe true if their souls lie

in wait, eager for the chance to jump,
hot grease on the griddle, spatters
pooling solid as they cool

Class of 17
So few of them left, now
organizers lumped five years
of classes together,

the invitations returned unopened
from nursing homes and other
last known addresses

until there was a final count:
fewer than twenty who could bear
both travel and duration,

who could understand what
it was all about, or a semblance.
They came on canes and walkers

and of course wheelchairs.
In front of what they called the New Gym (built
in 1939) the table was bunted

and bannered WELCOME SENIORS 1915-19,
covered with old-fashioned campaign buttons
a saucer-sized black and white photo of each

taken that long-ago summer between junior and senior years
a sepia trap of youth absent of tragedy, absent of everything
but endless hope


From now on

I am a bad man,
each human heart no more
than a grain of sand
or a shirt hanging on a clothesline
that I on my motorcycle never see
So I will be a bad man from now on
and all your crying won’t even make me
sneer. I won’t notice
the bruises on your back, won’t care
if it’s cold, won’t look
at a clock or a calendar
ever again