Skinny by Carolyn Hembree

When I read Carolyn Hembree, I am reminded of a ball of heat lightning that shot through our house one summer when I was young.  That charge stayed in the air and made us feel like we had snapped suddenly awake. Skinny wakes us with that blue coil, "fast under a low ceiling," shooting from sideboard to curtain rod to screendoor in one brilliant flash, electrifying everything.  It sounds like bottle-rockets are going off, and I feel the thrill and terror of living inside each explosive line.  –D.A. Powell


Old Sweetheart Slams White Russians and Mudslides on Ditmars Blvd., Astoria



First words out of my mouth he say: My, my you're not from around here.

Every bone cry hie you hence but in uniform he's out of this world.

Brass chicken hawk on brick wall exposed read fifty degrees.

Truly, I want a shortcut to the innermost workings of one other.


Says: You take your chances running night operations. I say goddamn.

Bird's eye view of his fingers spread out on his crown, flesh

wound. Through three shot glasses the waitress' fingers loop.

Clappin' off the beat he guffaw: You dance like a country girl. Flush.


To the beaten path of his hand in the pile of my skirt go

towards the southernmost row houses, turn at the spicy restaurant

its awning ruffling—there one woman lends another her rabbit fur.

Dream a man at the N station at the crack of dawn to sing and flaunt.


Now whether to sing or tell it other ways.

Leastways, atop the gratings a man dance with a puppet life-size

its arms to his waist tied. Hot little number, he say and has it

say caramba while the train skates in and speakers crackle live.


My sheets snapped flat and train-case crammed,

I never answered you (losin' your mind, scramblin' in the grass down)

asking me years hence: Why don't you sound now like where you're from?

No, you just looking hard at me—the voice is from elsewhere thrown.

Previously appeared in jubilat number 5 and Poetry Daily

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Carolyn’s debut poetry collection, Skinny, now available from Kore Press

Two Poems in EOAGH

Carolyn's Kindergarde review in Jacket2

Review of Skinny in Rattle

"Primer from My Forebears"published in Drunken Boat

Carolyn's second manuscript, Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine & Other Ways to Escape a Plague, was a semi-finalist for the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition

Review of Skinny in Pebble Lake Review

Martha Reed's mini-review of Skinny

Open letter from Megan Burns at Horse Less Press

Book review of Skinny at CutBank

"Still of Mamie and Bird" nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Skinny nominated for a Norma Farber First Book Award

Carolyn's second manuscript, Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine & Other Ways to Escape a Plague, was a finalist for the Tupelo Press 2012 First/Second Book Award and Switchback Books' 2012 Gatewood Prize

"A body's not a wristwatch to unwind itself" featured by Verse Daily

"Fever Ribbons," an essay on Skinny and Hembree's writing in general.

"Fable from My Forebears" and "Did the Universe Have a Beginning, and If So, What Happened Before Then?" published in the current issue of DIAGRAM