All in by Sarah Carey

by Sarah Carey

I give her the feminine gender, this pride
on my sleeve, reflecting sensibility
and taste. Inside the gap of my scapula

she hangs, curved like a womb,
seamed strap attaching her whole body,
hip to shoulder to mine, a line—

taut at times, as when I press my hand
to the base of her sewn buckles,
feel my mother’s fingers, still at the Singer,

hem-mending after fold and chalk.
Other times she bends into my side waist
muscles, as when I sit to listen

as my mother shares her latest skin flare-up,
asks the specialist to work her in, wonders if
advancing years will cause one’s largest organ

to grow thin, or if that’s just what physicians say
to help old women make peace with pain,
or when she leans against me

for a moment, lets me feel her weight.
Bearing all I hold dear zipped, she models merits
of restraint, yet elides a sigh from deep within

her secret walls when I reach down, across,
inside her compartments to claim
my tube of lip gloss, lost key rings,

forgotten change, a pair of shades, a buried pen
grit glistens. I emerge with all my broken bits
to see that everything we carry,

mold ourselves to, wears, fades away.
I think I don’t deserve her,
but I do.

*This poem won first Honorable Mention in the “Poetry for Purses” Competition in honor of Kate Spade and suicide prevention.


Sarah Carey is a graduate of the Florida State University creative writing program. Her work has also appeared in Superstition Review, Valparaiso Review, Barrow Street, Potomac Review, Glass Poetry Journal, Carolina Quarterly, SWWIM Every Day, and elsewhere. She received an International Merit Award in the Atlanta Review's 2018 International Poetry Prize competition and was a finalist in Sequestrum Literary Journal's 2018 New Writer Award competition. Accommodations (fall, 2019) received the 2018 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. She also is the author of a previous chapbook, The Heart Contracts (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Sarah directs communications for the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and lives in Gainesville with her husband and her exceedingly precocious black Lab.

by Sarah Carey

I live for what the dead give.

Hidden by leaf screens and branches,

I pillage rotting wood. My tribe fought

long for salvation, after the forests’ razing

dug into ragged stumps, felled trunks,

a miracle of wholeness from fragments,

a feast of insects who thrive on decay.

What’s left when I leave is for others to say.

Should you see my black wings

and red head knocking wood for nourishment,

you might ask if I believe God is dead,

as Altizer said, believing God lived and died

in Christ, that the church lied

about becoming the body—but what Altizer said

was not what most thought he meant,

which was in death, life—a spirit

indwelling to drill the dying down,

incarnate carnage, God’s passion.

If you ask me, I’m proof he was right.

If you listen to my rat-a-tat melody

echoing my drumming beak, you may hear

an answered prayer of oneness, in desire’s

shrill tattoo, and the thrumming

of your own wild heart.


Sarah Carey is a graduate of the Florida State University creative writing program. Her work has appeared recently in Superstition Review, Valparaiso Review, Barrow Street, Potomac Review, Glass Poetry Journal, The Christian Century, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of an International Merit Award in the Atlanta Review's 2018 International Poetry Prize competition and a finalist in Sequestrum Literary Journal's 2018 New Writer Award competition. She is the author of The Heart Contracts (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Sarah works for the University of Florida and lives in Gainesville. Visit her at