Thanks to Lyle Daggett‘s excellent blog A Burning Patience I discovered the poetry of Carol Tarlen. Lyle Dagett’s piece about Carol’s poetry is here.

Of her poetry Lyle Daggett writes:

I found it a deeply powerful collection, tough uncompromising poems of the daily struggle of working-class life, the frequent hardship and bitterness, and the unforced lyricism and beauty that can also be part of such a life. Many of the poems in this book moved me in an immediate and personal way, speaking to my own daily experience in a way I haven’t often encountered.

Tarlen is a wonderful poet whose poems are both political and human. She brings together the political and human realities of everyday life in a way that is unique, profound and deeply affecting.

Carol Tarlen’s only published book of poetry is titled Every day is an Act of Resistance.

A blog exploring her life and work is here.

The lines below are from her poem “White Trash: An Autobiography”:

We didn’t have lawns, instead we shared the gravel,
the wash tubs, the showers, the toilets.
My little brother and I played in the fields
behind the trailer court.
We found an irrigation ditch to wade in.
I pushed my brother, he fell down,
stuck his hands in to the slimy water,
lifted his fingers to his mouth, licked.

That night he awoke with a belly ache and diarrhea.
It lasted a week. I watched from my bunk bed
as he sat on a pot in the middle of the room,
his shit turning to blood,
blood turning to a thin clear liquid.
His ribs protruded from his white skin.
His red hair shone luminous in the dark.
Sores grew on his lips.
He was all the time thirsty.

He went to the hospital.
After two weeks the doctors told my mother
to take him home to die.
Instead she took him to a university medical center.
He was given antibiotics and lived. […]

[…] Summer came. The lettuce shriveled in the fields.
Daddy got laid off and we moved to Redding.
The trailer park we lived in had grass and oak trees.
In the evening, when the air cooled,
we sat with the neighbors under the oaks.
The women talked. The men played dominoes.
The children ran, pushed, shouted.
Lizards climbed our legs. Giggling, we shook them off.
Daddy lost his job. We moved to Folsom.
Hospital bills followed us up and down California. We never paid.