carolyn rice

pretty please

by: carolyn c. rice


he said my hair was
the color of honey.
his lay in soft
shiny-black commas behind
his ears against
the smooth, brown skin of his neck.

I looked into his
dark eyes, a little tilted,
like Pan.
he said, careful
fingers unbuttoning the top two
buttons of my blouse,
may I see?

so polite.
so unassuming.
who could say no?


“Pretty Please” first appeared in The Petigru Review.

strawberry pleasures

by: carolyn c. rice

Skin heating

Noon’s caress
Hands busy, leaves
haired, thick springing
Fingers stalk kneading
teasing top ruddy glowing

Mouth filled – flesh,
juice overflowing
Stinging kisses, touched,
releasing perfume –
earthy balm


“Strawberry Pleasures” first appeared in Horizons.


peacock display

by: carolyn c. rice


lift and fan
fluff and smooth
brush brush brush
artlessly proud
humorously vain

red changing to green –
one last preen and
satisfied glance at his
hair in his rearview mirror
before driving away

“Peacock Display” first appeared in Horizons.


by: carolyn c. rice

It’s been too long since I’ve been lost.
I don’t mean the common or mall variety of lost,
though I do that too.
I don’t mean the scary nighttime Oh my God I’m running out of gas kind of lost,
though I do that too.
I don’t even mean the middle of the night in my own house lost.
No, I mean a full of myself lost,
a secret mischief lost,
an I can do anything hide and watch me lost.
Myself, lost and found.

I mean the kind of lost I was in New York City on foot
when I went out the wrong exit of the Museum of Modern Art,
wandered clueless as a cloud, and ran right smack dab into a Shoe Museum.
A SHOE museum!
Fifteenth Century Venetian noblewoman’s shoes,
medieval peasant clogs,
Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz slipper.
You could have a fit a shoe in my smile.

I drove down to New Orleans for the King Tut exhibit.
I got lost.
Round and round humid, shady streets,
past wrought-iron balconies and bougainvillea,
back and forth on the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain,
until the warm wet air blowing in my car window,
spicy as Cajun sausage,
smelling of mildew, oil refineries, and heated swamp,
became familiar again,
scents of childhood.

I flew to Holland for my sister’s wedding.
After the wedding I took a train to Amsterdam.
I ended up in The Hague.
I met three college students
who took me to the Madurodam,
through village streets no wider than my shoe,
by church steeples no high than my knee,
alongside a solemn procession of altar boys, Lilliputians.

On the island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf off the cost of Greece,
only a few steeply-climbing streets and one long dusty road.
I got lost anyway.
Flame-blue sky pressing the noonday heat onto the white stone walls.
Houses, their bright-painted windows tight-shuttered,
keeping out the sun and strangers.
I followed a dog
to the fish market.
Bins of squid, lobster, shrimp,
pans of whole anchovies,
pushcart grill, man cooking octopus,
tiny tables filled with men drinking ouzo
who helped me get back to the ship.

My straight-arrow cousin from Texas came to visit me.
I took her to Asheville, and, of course,
I got lost.
She was outraged.
She needed guidebooks, compass, maps,
paper security,
blue and red lines weaving a safety net,
pathfinders to follow down a narrow, hard-paved road.
She was so angry that I let her drive my new car.
She drove it backwards down a freeway entry ramp.

I do use guidebooks to plan my treks,
each historic site safe recorded on my written plan.
But … I turn the wrong way at a corner.
I see an alleyway, a gate, a door.
I find an old woman sitting on her doorstep making lace,
her gnarled fingers moving swift as swallows’ flight.
Her wise old eyes nested in wrinkles watch me watching her.
Spindles, stacks of slender pylons, frame her lap.
Wings of fine threads, secured to a solid body of pins
on a runway of red and blue cloth.
Above, clouds, constellations of lace.

One day soon I will find myself again
down an unexplored street, driving
along an unknown highway, a sojourner
beneath unfamiliar skies, a striver struggling
up a steep hill and across the wide ocean,
even in and around my own home place, an explorer.
Somewhere in this strange and magical universe,
I will be lost again.


“Lost” first appeared in Earth’s Daughters.

defining box

by: carolyn c. rice

his father painted the nursery walls
pouring the paint back and forth between two containers to mix it,
dreaming of the six spaces on a baseball diamond where a batter,
the coaches, the pitcher, and the catcher stand,
dreaming of him – striding onto the field, ear deep in hysterical adulation,

except that birthdays came and went
unbatted and ungloved, not even a hope of a home run.
on his fourteenth birthday he clamored for
a guitar, a lipstick-red Rickenbacker as seen on TV –
himself the androgynous wild man on the stage,
adored by hundreds and hundreds of screaming girls.

for Christmas his grandmother gave him an acoustic guitar, which
she said was less destructive to the hearing, and at her house,
after all the turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce and pies,
he unearthed an old record player and some records, among them
a few dusty 78 rpms, miraculously unbroken,
that Grandma said had belonged to her father, and he heard

for the first time
the stuttering guitar and melancholy yowls of
Blind Lemon Jefferson performing Black Snake Moan.
next came Robert Johnson playing slip-sliding chords as thin as
a knife blade, his voice sharper than the broken neck of a whiskey bottle.
Son House, Lonnie Johnson – he played them, all of them, over and over.
he had discovered the blues.

he refused to go to college, instead
working temporary jobs here and there, becoming
an inadvertent expert at topiary – trimming and training shrubs into
dryads and dragons, unicorns and umbrellas.
in summer he drove a carriage all over Charleston,
posing on the driver’s seat for tourists.

he took up travelling over the years, naming
the 32 points of the compass in their order,
his guitar his only companion –
chasing the blues while
his parents’ anniversaries and his
grandmother’s funeral were held without him.

he came at last to his end in an old theater, expiring in
one of the small compartments for spectators, and was moved to
an even smaller compartment under the ground –
just big enough for himself, his guitar – and the blues.


“Defining Box” first appeared in SCWW’s Quill.