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Audrey T. Carroll is a Queens, NYC native currently pursuing her English PhD at the University of Rhode Island. Her obsessions include kittens, coffee, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in peculiar, Glass Poetry, Foliate Oak, and others. Queen of Pentacles, her debut poetry collection, is available from Choose the Sword Press. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter.
Advice on Stone Walls
By Audrey T. Carroll

​   
I don’t know how to guide you in the construction
of stone walls; some would say to build them
as high, as thick, as fortified as you can,
a move toward protecting yourself
and, of course, I want you to protect yourself,
but others would say to tear down
the walls as often as you can,
stone by stone, never let the moss
grow or the ivy bind it, for to be selfish
is to do the world a harm, and compassion
is a virtue. I’ve never been one for moderation
(though it plays key to so many locks),
most of my years spent cementing slabs
together to build myself a tower, later only
to kick out one brick here, one brick there,
a back and forth rhythm, constant adjustments
for my too-much-ness, a balance beam game
of giving from self and giving to self:
one moment checking in on every other
to assure their welfare and dissolving
into maternal instincts until I vanished,
the next moment sealing myself in shadows
and losing myself in the darkness, ignoring
any call toward sunlight or moonlight, all calls
that would suggest a reality beyond the tower;
those instincts are in flux, always.
You will find your own balance, of course,
eventually, and you’ll build and break
as it suits you, but I should know the tools
to give you, I should know the words,
I should know the way to help you navigate
it all—Where is the border crossing
of selfish and survival? Of giving
and disappearing? How can we ever
know the difference; how can I
help you sense the blueprints
when I can’t read them myself?


Perfectly Natural
By Audrey T. Carroll

​   
I.

Girls are dainty ballerinas; they get to be cute & sweet & precious
perpetual princesses who never evolve to queen. Pink stars
in pink night's skies (which, if applied to reality, has to be a sign
of some mythos' End Times). Crowns accessorize; wands cast
sparkle-spells like pretty smiles.



II. 

Boys are default; they get to be cute but also smarty pants! & ha ha
happy. We search through rainbows of the 'boys' section for variety,
digging past handsome little heartbreaker to find planets against
cobalt skies, curious owl eyes peering out from branches, cheerful
little dinosaurs who've forgotten they should be covered in feathers. 


III.

When outfits include a Nirvana onesie & army green pants & fuzzy
pink bear-hooded winter's coat, others stare; others ask boy or girl
as though it's the only part that matters, not name, not favorite toy,
not do they like when you read to them, because boy or girl shifts
the questions, one gear acknowledging how pretty, how pretty,
one gear how big, how strong. Others say he after we say girl,
again & again, play-acting the stumble—god bless himer, her, god 
bless him, god bless because we violate the color-code contract.  


IV.

Our belief in tradition ends with a name.
Cometh Before The Fall
By Audrey T. Carroll

​   
They say [the word] is the foundation
of evil, the we must make ourselves
humble—and by humble they mean small
           small of mind: surrendering curiosity
           small of body: surrendering space
for the comfort of others

It is a sin to take
[the word] in our work
or to take [the word] in our daughters

It is to fissure open four chambers
like Eve, to sew seeds in vulnerable flesh,
to allow tree to root, to flourish
           as though we are worthy
           as though we are worth
anything, because this we must deny

It’s a game, you see,
where some surrender
themselves and others only pretend
because it’s really a message
for daughters like us

So many sons don’t attempt
even the pretense
as daughters like you and I
            shrink 
            and shrink 
            and shrink ourselves
as close to nonexistence as we can

Not humbled, but humiliated

Take [the word]. It is an unsung rebellion.