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Mark DeCartaret

They Year I Went Without Having Any Sense of Direction

I dropped off my parents at the trailhead. They were very old. And underdressed. And had nothing in the way of power drinks or nuts. Not even a small bottle of water between them. Neither of them had ever shown any interest in mountain climbing before. But I respected their wishes. As I had always done in the past. And so, I waved to them. Shouted out—“Watch out for the bears. Don’t catch rabies.” And then went back to town to have dinner with friends. On the way over, lights started to swing from the trees. Hailstones pelted the patios. And some wires had fallen into the streets. Where they tried to find rest amongst the sparks. Since the last time I’d seen my two friends they had taken up smoking and drinking. Neither were very good at it. They squinted. And didn’t know how to hold their cigarettes. And kept spilling their whiskey on the motel furniture. Telling me about how their fortunes had turned for the worse. I had the feeling their marriages were not doing well. And while usually eager to bring up their children in conversation. They now kept them hidden away. Except to say they were late with their cell phone payments. Had bad drug habits. And had been arrested for stealing cars. And setting small fires. I told them how I had dropped off my parents at the trailhead earlier. Underdressed. Without a dried apricot. Or a compass. And my friends were horrified. Squinting even harder. Dropping their cigarettes to the floor. You have to call in a rescue team, they said, right this minute. As they poured themselves more whiskey. And looked around for first aid kits. And what they kept referring to as “a good length of rope.” Those mountains are no place for parents. Especially very old ones like yours. And as the one I’d known longest blew a stream of smoke into my eye. It hit me. How every way they’d thought ill of me held some truth. And how these truths were sometimes ruthless in their lie-making. Once we met with the rescue team, I couldn’t remember the name of the trailhead. There seemed to be bears in all of them. Bear River Float. Bear Shoulder. Bear Whistle Lake. Even a Bear Asleep Between Two Ghostly Figures. Well, without the exact name we’re not going to be of much help,” said the rescue team member with the walkie talkie and a scar, that looked like a spill, on his lip. And with that, put their rescue dogs back in their crates and left. We’ll just have to search for them ourselves, said the friend I hadn’t known as long. Stubbing out her cigarette dramatically. And volunteering to drive. We ate the snack cakes they had brought. A brand I remember snacking on nonstop as a child. Liking their taste. But liking more guiding the cream out with my tongue. And then sticking the golden cakes onto the ends of my fingers. Stage wrestling matches between them. And then less than a mile out of town, we happened to spot my parents at the Radio-Collared Bear Dollar Store. They looked less old. And fitter. Wearing ponchos they’d had the whole time. Folded into squares. And slipped down into their socks. Along with some salt tablets. We texted you our location, they told us. Along with an ETA. The blue bugles are quite lovely this time of year. We took lots of pictures. Hopefully, they came out. The Year I Went Without Reading (All About it) to Wayne I was your normal lad. For all of one day. Born from the mating of this ship and some ice. Which were tamed by the cold depths of their love for each other. I’ve been holding my breath ever since. And so has my twin. Who leads off every sentence by clearing my throat. And me, his. Then holding that one note. Not really a note. Sound trapped between contestant and host. Patterning itself on the soon to be dead air. So, who ghosts whom the most? It’s no matter. I deal in old news. And he deals in new. And together, we operate as a work-in-progress, crew. Me, only dealing in a past one part spirit to one part Arctic trip. He, in a future entirely free of references. No more lovely an example of what is. The moon rid of our wishes. Outnumbering all our desires. Does nobody understand? I must still kneel at the shrine of the once Irish poet. Who was known to extract song. From a briefcase. Or a stack of bones. The wreck of a wreck of a wreck. Because I lack the skills. To liken the world. To any one word. Divine the least foreboding of lines out the watery chill without killing it. And scare much too easily. Think so ill of myself. I’ll willfully take a seat at that table of has-beens. Or even worse, never-seen-to. Unable to eat of their cast-offs. Or drink of their aftertaste. But then, look how the sun forms a near perfect circle. And then sets it aflame. Losing all that has passed. For a soul in name only. What a morning. What a morning!

The Year I Went Without Updating My Resume

I had tired of action verbs. Cunning ways to sell the world on my mastery of Magnetic Operating Leases. Had drunk dry all the facts about energy drinks. And had had my fill of liking my life skills, miracle whipping myself into shape, and hobby horsing around with a favorite craft. I gave no thought to my headings. Or how vague my goals were. My history was a blur. My sure things a ruse. And my wi-fi was like all those flies they would’ve loved to be on my wall. I couldn’t highlight the sun. Or speak fondly of a keepsake. I would first go at them with a slogan. You shouldn’t wear the socks until you’ve agreed to read the book. Then would over-employ the word “Dope.” And finally sign off with a worrisome cough, an even more worrisome grin. The suggestion they sing every bit of it. To the tune of “Living on a Prayer.” And in between deal with my ex-tended family, wife. In a section I’ve cleverly titled. What little did we know and do so less now. Is it any wonder I mislead my readers? Am met with hisses and simulated threats, this mess of illegible marks, by the team? I was never one to optimize. Post my SAT scores. Or try to keep it sort of short. In a font that says, “Not Taking No for an Answer.” I write poetry for fuck’s sake! I spent an eternity temping. Having my pals in gym running laps around me. Pretend-slapping me. My muse has long assumed that I’m already dead. Who cares about errors or soft spots? I’m still tops in no class you’ve ever heard of. Opting to use my skull. To toast its own vacancies. Wish my brain future luck. I’m getting so low on grape flavored paper. And felt lettering. I might just have to end with a dot-to-dot. Tend to the unfriendly fire of my half-loaded imagination.


Mark DeCartaret's poetry has appeared in 500 literary reviews.

Collage by Wayne Atherton. Wayne attended Massachusetts College of Art 1969-1972 and served as senior editor of The Café Review from 1992 to 2019 where he promoted the

work of local, national, and internationally renowned poets and artists. He began

making mixed media collages and assemblages circa 1990 and has built a

substantial body of work in those particular mediums ever since. His work has

appeared in several gallery exhibitions, online, in print, and in poetry book

collaborations. A broad sampling of his life’s work may be viewed at,


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