Kids Cut Right Through the Nonsense;

when the governor comes on the news, for instance,
advising us we need to pray for rain,

a girl just groans
and walks off disgusted, saying,

“What kind of bullshit God
wouldn’t already know?. . . 

I mean, look!”—
throwing her arms wide open, a gesture

to sweep in the whole panorama—
“The forests are nothing

but a box of burnt matchsticks.
What the fuck?”

She should be our ambassador.
Or someone who learns to play guitar.

We could siphon off juice from the power plant, get her amp,
and make that the chorus.

She could call her song “The Rain Prayer”
and teach it to the rest.

Not all of them are so well-spoken,
but there’s time.

We’re all still adjusting,
and they’re still young,

still working out the punch
and shimmy of verbs.

Like this boy, first grade,
always naming what’s around him:

“Hi, Rock-

“Hi, Ram-on-the-Ridge-

“Hi, Thorn-in-My-Foot-

“I hate thorns.”

His older sister—
turning eight soon, I think—

has a wind-up line
she always uses:

“My dad says you’re the Recorder,
so you can write this down”. . .

“Now, this is ‘The Story of Cats’—
Once upon a time, there were two,

and they were friends,
and both of them were black-and-white

or white-and-gray,
a little like a panda face,

and they looked like a curled-up panda when they slept,
but this is not a sleeping story.

This is the story
of people being hungry. . . 

But the cats were never hungry ’cause they could chase,
and they liked to eat grasshoppers.

How many grasshoppers were there?
Just try counting to infinity.

Mostly the land was all dead,
but the land still moved.”

And so on, and so on.
Kids talking, me recording.

And nobody saying we should test them on this
because nobody here is an idiot.

We come to this spot where the falls used to be
to get away.

I know that’s ridiculous.
There’s no way to get away from Earth.

But two kids have taken up drumming
on a hollow log;

they’re even getting good at it.
And three others are sharing the grindstone,

sharpening tools
for our Wall of Rhetorical Questions:

How many words ’til our chisels turn dull?
Answer: The lifespan of butterflies.

How much longer ’til it’s better?
What is that, a joke?

We’re all still adjusting.
We aren’t tundra swans

who’ve lost their wetlands.
Probably a few of us could migrate

if we could sell our homes,
if anyone would buy them.

Imagine the real estate listing;
that’s funny:

“3-bdrm home in a droughtscape,
neighborhood school

distributes gallon-jugs of water,
clawfoot tub.”

We’re all still adjusting—
there’s a girl here who’s practicing guitar,

and, mostly, the dogs avoid rattlesnakes,
and we go on.

But it isn’t easy.
Say, a kid comes and asks me for a story.

Say, a kid comes and asks for a story
“where my sister gets to eat,

like she’s rich or she’s a princess or something.
And a boy’s in it too—can you do that?…

a boy who’s like her brother?
And boys,

even not-by-the-ocean boys,
can learn to swim?”


Rob Carney is the author of the flash-essay collection Accidental Gardens and eight books of poems, most recently Call and Response (Black Lawrence Press 2021) and The Book of Sharks (Black Lawrence 2018), which was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. He is a recipient of the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry, a featured contributor to, and his work has appeared in dozens of journals. He lives in Salt Lake City.