Carey Taylor, Surfacing


to have even an ocean’s chance of swimming
in that phosphorescent glow
you know is your center

the one that too often slips out between
your legs like silky kelp or the men
you love but cannot hold onto

attach yourself like a barnacle
to the belly of a whale—
dive deep into saltwater

place your finger
in the heartless center
of a sea anemone

feel it grasp your promise
and beating pulse—
embrace its softening hold

After My Last Book I Said Enough of Writing About Impermanence

That was the year I returned home from Ireland
to find a snowdrift of feathers on the fireplace
hearth. When the furnace stopped working

every few weeks and I sat bundled in wool,
funeral after funeral, listening to the hum of flies
crawl from the mouth of brick—carcass of bird

beyond my reach. That was the year my bed pillow
smelled of wood smoke and the contractor replaced
basement windows to ensure exit from fire while people

in Paradise burned in cars on inferno roads as I fingered a
dime-store cross—found behind a wall of that old house.
And when parents spun away into worlds beyond knowing

and childhood lost its gravity I covered myself in thick
blankets—tried to toughen into muscle of abalone, until my
husband, uneasy I might fold into a kite of sorrow no prescription

could lift, drove me week after week to the local nursery, where
under cast-iron skies he walked beside me until I chose—
currant, spirea, lupine, foxglove, bleeding heart—nectar

for that dark cave of honey.

The Days of Starfish

‘It is a curious situation that the seas from which life first arose should
now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though
changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.’

Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, 1951


My lungs fill first with cold Pacific air. Father
fishes the kelp beds. Mother sings to me.
When I walk free, I touch the spines of starfish
attached to jetty rock.
Orange and purple stellar bursts
adorn steel days.


It starts with a common ocean
virus, a sea beginning to warm,
a simple immune system
unaccustomed to heat.
The first signs are skin lesions.
Then twisted arms, a body
that deflates then liquefies
into a puddle.
Starfish eat urchins. Urchins
multiply—clear cut forests of kelp.
Kelp beds shelter. Sequester carbon.
Feed other species.


I play on our front yard beach. Build forts
of driftwood, dig razor clams by hand,
stand barefoot at the waterline, watch
my father cross the bar.
Starfish. Father.
Father. Starfish.
I have no inkling
they won’t hold fast.

At the Edge of the Pyre

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.’
WB Yeats, The Second Coming

saffron back, flat,
on alluvial soil

skull ash

drip of Ganges
rub of ghee

crack of



Carey Taylor is the author of The Lure of Impermanence (Cirque Press, 2018). Her poetry has appeared in regional, national, and international publications and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Born in Bandon, Oregon, she has spent her entire life at the western edges of Oregon and Washington. She lives and writes from Portland, Oregon and can be found via her website.

Read more of Carey here.

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