The Way of Memory

The crepe paper days of late June,all of them, the Summer of 74, are on

a spinning boat  in my old imagination. I have ridden the warm 

days and lingered over a shared 

joint by the light of a satin moon

for so long now I no longer shake

myself to be sure you haven’t 

gone, like a stone on the lake’s shore, 

which, when washed up on the moraine, dangles in a wave and is

gone again.  As with you

on a raining night, running for

someplace to hide.  Death almost

did part us.  As the marriage

of two souls, destroyed, died. 

Lest you ever learn of my long, lingering, pain, know how I loved you

old as when we were young and

ragged with the raw edges of an

impossible dream. But you

left me and in the undoing of myself

I woke alone from the sting

of unbelief. 

Sorrow does not preclude death, 

but it is in the years of grief, searching for a way across the long embattled 


that we die. 

Caroline Shank 




People touch people in some

free-form folding of lives,

briefly, changing shapes,

always re-emerging against

new sides, blending likef

figures on a screen, always

in motion, changing colors,

signifying some never-ending

continuum, floating in a

liquid teeming with

possibility, sliding

into each other, skin to

skin for the length of a

second.  Touch is the

brush of friends

at anchor.



It’s a movie afternoon.  On the

menu today is Stephen King. 

Pennywise, gruesome and

gore.  Sit tight the clown

is coming. Up and over, 

round and round.  Balloons

rip the fragile air,  Screams

tear through today. 

The sewer is full of blood. 

The axel-tree is full of mud. 

I see it in the look of his

face.  “I’m coming!” is his

insistent cry. 

Who’s in there now? Go in 

and see. I am bound to a

mixture of fear.  Stir me up. 

Tap off the movie.  He is

scared even as he writes. 

I turn around and see the

clown.  He melts into me.

I only know enough

to run scared. 

I am bound for the after-

noon train to Derry. 

Caroline Shank 


a few more





Clouds form.  Cold north winds

roll in.  We run toward Spring.

Slide.  You warm in me.




It is warm in this padded place.

There are guards who keep me

safe.  I am cream in the

center of a huge puff.


I am crazy.  They give me

pills.  I am sleepy all

the time.  I see petals

without the rest of the

flower, look out of windows

I cannot open.


I remember my mother,

she floats by, inches from

my hands.  She wears death

like a dress and looks for me

in a crowd.


I am put to bed.

In a drugged dream I find

her, there where she

wants me.



Published in Primipara Spring/Summer 1983  Vol IX:i





Middle 70’s


Torn Corners




We women are unboxed girls,

our ribbons untied, our

wrappers spread out, our

corners torn.


We stick back on pieces of

ourselves, a little out of

synch; we peer through

the holes.


Our little girls lie under

the tree in baby boxes.

Pretty shining foil and



We women wait.

We make room.



prob late 70’s or early 80’s

may have been published in Primipara, not sure






I lay out there nearly naked.

You are warmth and touch and

kiss.  My pores open, yield

juices that color me the shades

of heat; the browns of new-

chewed leather.  Your breath

rubs me.  Gentle undulations

thrill my almost open and ever

waiting body.


But you cannot reach me where

it counts.  Oh, would I give myself

naked, your lover, exposed.  I

would be unafraid.  As it is I

look in the glass at your outline,

rub the places for you, reaching

for the juices you should

lick but don’t.

?  late 70’s



a few more


The Only Thing South I Ever Knew




The only thing south I ever knew

was you.  Across the line my

brick house, cold against

winter winds.  You walked in.


A pale drawl red as clay lay

leaf-like on a Wisconsin



The only thing south I ever knew,

you, wet, clear,

a  season  reflected.


Hot days you hung like famous moss

across the north of me.  Timebold summer

smeared like soft sand.


I was unshoed.  The seasons of

your drawl oiled me.  You trickled

s’s, soft piney sounds.



You were the last it was to be

vines across my porch.




April 30, 2001




(Recrudescence (recrudesce): to break out

again after lying latent or relative inactive)



There are doors which even you and I

have never opened.  Shut for so many

years I am slammed back against

the sink of meditation.


Drawers unopened , their loneliness

stuck shut, slipped behind hinges.

Whole cabinets of dust.  I wore many

selves.  Stains hung here so far

removed from conversation

as to be little calciums. Calculi.

I rattle.



When the gun was pressed against

my head I sat more still than a

whisper, more quiet than the

center of a fruit.  It stemmed

into my hair, I felt its roots

shoot.  I was sixteen.


I always wondered if the red dye

of my fear rubbed off on him.

He was silent, his face the only light

in the room, the phosphorescence of

madness.  He couldn’t find

me I guess, inside my absolute



The edge was a steel shaft in

his hand. At last he slipped it

to the door.  In the end I

saved him.


ego te absolvo.


(I was so afraid he wouldn’t

like me anymore.  )




My head is cloudy today,

thought unlike wisps is a

chain clank.  Buoy is roiling

out of reach.


Long night of drear dreams

unraveled patterns

lost babies into the arms

of strange men.


I long for a shore

Far away from myself

unshelled, the grit of

sleep gone into seagulls.


Tomorrow’s sunshine today.

Weather here is uncharted.

Winds smack me unexpected,

flatten me unpredicted.


I rise from my shell

of course.

Everymorning is a god

of unreason.



Caroline Shank


June 2003


Lost One


You were gone before I could begin

the litany.  Scratched from my life in

brown flakes.  A long scream.  I didn’t

know it then.  Eighteen is a narcissism.


I never got to pray the one liner.

You creamed in, creamed out.


(please don’t let me be pregnant

please don’t let me be pregnant

please don’t let me be pregnant

please don’t let me be pregnant

please don’t let me be pregnant

please don’t let me be

please don’t let me

please don’t let

please don’t

please )


I wish you had stayed around long

enough for me to know, to miss

the muscle-clinging.  Your father

was a lurch, an interpretation of

a man I knew was a boy but

he drove a red car.  1965 was

all leather, chrome, painted.


I would have wanted you.  You

split me open one day at work.

All you gave me was a web of a

dress in tatters, a final molecular

hand waving from the white cotton.



I am sorry to have missed the

meaning, missed the experience,

not sorry I missed the bastard

who married someone he didn’t

love.  But then I never told him

so I win a little, lose a lot,

love you.


Little one, still point, send

me some word of you.



Caroline Marie Shank


The Lion Sleeps Tonight



Not so, really, the seat of spring,

a car of dark cloths, the voice of

boys and whispers.  Do it.


Do it, the lion sleeps tonight

playing on the radio.  Do it.


Forty years the lion is awake.

I remain in the back, handblack,

churning.  My stomach is den

solid now and hungers for the

shallow response.  The song

played then shouts out loud.


Do it.  I wrestled with it, and drowned.


The lion sleeps not I think.  I see

the mane of his black head, the

italian tomorrow of my fourteenth

year roared from him.


I did it in the maw of that music.

I held onto the rape, pretended

to feed the wimoway.  Never done.


I did it to the music of the bastard

who whispered to me of the jungle.

I did it to the tune of the prick that

pinned me to the mighty song.


The lion sleeps.  I think not yet.

Snickersnack the wimoway is

whacked low and I drown in the

song.  I did it, like a nun who fears

perdition if she drops the rosary.


The lion sleeps tonight.  In the jungle

the son of a bitch NewYork night

pads on and on.  I don’t sleep.






Caroline Marie Shank


March 9, 2001




I am on the dark side where

there is chaos for scenery;

where the props are hot

and the actors black shadows.

I walk through the parts;

endlessly repeat rituals and bow.

My fate is to wait for my

audience; to hear the sound

of no applause. To call for

music from the empty pit.

Strophe and antistrophe

myself as all parts

on a stage where the

curtain will never descend.

Published in Primipara Fall/Winter Vol VIII:ii

This one was a 2nd place winner.

October Nights

Rainy nights. Octobers lay on us like

wet skin. Leaves everywhere. Gold

soaked medallions in the early dark. We

walked the city’s sidewalks. Curb’s shadows

held daylight under lids, to be released

tomorrow, if tomorrow is good, if

tomorrow’s promises are true? Who

knows? Tomorrow rises out of

foggy drains. Deep shadows test

the process. God’s process

revealed in some quotidian


We went on. Each to another. The white

flash of the walklight, sanctioned

innocence. What innocence? What is

innocence? We crossed the moment,

bridged the evening, reached for the

echo as it passed. Rainwet

faces. Smiles lit the ends of days.

Dark October evening’s promises

flew into tomorrow.

Caroline Marie Shank



Dreams were flying fast and

furiously then.  Crash landing

on my pillow in the wet they

mistook for lakes.  As a

young woman I threw images

around sleep, clay pigeons

pocked and shattered by the bullets

fired in an hallucination which

passes for the  infantile

inquisition I replayed nightly:

my mother in a black cowl with

no face, only a cigarette

light like an unsucked nipple.


I dreamt in those days of men

gathered in galleries to watch

as the chosen amongst them lay

over my supine body prying my

legs apart.  “No”, was my only

response.  My mouth opened and

shut.  No one listened.


Later my dreams turned erotic.

I understood the twitchings and

jerkings of my engorged center

were only lightening in a dry

and empty storm.  As the years

went by I prayed not to enter into

the recondite carnival that was

my experience of the night.  I

did not want the ride on the

phalluses or the dance of the

colored ceilinglight at the

entrance to my unconscious.


The dreams, then, so many years

ago, are the same dreams now,

only older, more shattering as

I grow weaker.  I keep a journal,

mostly empty, examine my

body before sleep, and check

my few prayers at the door.

I ask for a knight who wants

to talk, a godperson looking

in my eye for signs of life.




Torn Corners

Torn Corners




We women are unboxed girls,

our ribbons untied, our

wrappers spread out, our

corners torn.


We stick back on pieces of

ourselves, a little out of

synch; we peer through

the holes.


Our little girls lie under

the tree in baby boxes.

Pretty shining foil and



We women wait.

We make room.


prob late 70’s or early 80’s

My Daughter Finding Fossils

Lake Michigan

(Nine years old)




Early morning beached bones

and million-year-old rocks

whisper, “Little girl?”.

She stops.  The socks she

carries rattle full of rocks.

She hears the one she wants.


She calls, “Mommy, look!”.

She thinks the fossil has smiles

I can see.  Ah, I haven’t seen

fossil smiles since I was nine

and curly and cradling my own

socky bundle by the beach

of little mouths calling to

little girls of fossil dreams,

fossil futures, and stone-hard

fossil love.


My Daughter Near Drowning

inLake Michigan

Seven years old




So cold and still her eyes looked

up at running me.  Glass is like

the water between us.  I am

Christ.  I never felt the wet

and never sank.  I reached

her through the mirror of



I am her god now.




These were published several times in the 70’s.  Both events are true and are about Laurie