Carly Marie DeMento: three poems

Where I Come From

“As a child, I thought of God as the land itself.”

—PJ Harvey

Don’t ask me. I come from blank land. Flat hills. Cut

for the burbs of San Diego. Ask the great horned owls.

Ask the chaparral. Don’t bother asking the rolled-out sod.

It will give you canned answers. Ask the last hacienda.

Sniff borders of sage. Dig out a vein. Ask the dirt

graveyard between condos. Ask of the Kumeyaay

buried with their feet pointed toward the sea. Ask the sea

why I used to squeeze between fences. Did I walk

the edges as if there had been a wreck? How

did the land get so flat? When I question the land,

it coughs up tractors, nails. When I question the land,

it asks me How deep will your shoes sink

into wet cement? Have you seen the ghosts like coyotes

in the streets? How could you be empty?


The Trouble with Pretending

I gave my soft body to bravado.

He crumpled it like tissue. Another for the pile.

In a dumpy condo off Del Mar Heights. No one ate

there. Or, nothing but pizza. I smeared my skin

with his greasy fingers. Oil slick prints. Every inch

of me peach fuzz. Every inch was fresh laundry

folded by my mother. But in the mirror, I was knives.

I dressed in brown sunsets, a soft rise of frankincense.

I was the one who set spells, carved words

into red wax, ran the stop signs in his eyes. I smoked

a cigarette after, pretended it was fine. That’s why I change

the station and green eyes make me cough. I buried him

in a hat box. I never bring my body to light.

I avoid my eyes in the mirror. They would

say, It’s you, baby. It’s you.


I hope when death comes

I’ll be a rock dropped from a plane,

undressed by the sky, a leaf

letting go and floating down

in a drift of orange scarves,

not a nervous hand fastening

and unfastening a button.

That all the effort will peel off,

the easy slip of silk undies.

That my hand will keep scribbling

the way it feels to no longer have hands, feet.

That at the end of desire,

there will be a joke.


Carly Marie DeMento is a poet and active citizen living in Encinitas, California. She recently began to submit her work at the age of 40. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the North American ReviewKestrel, and the Journal of Radical Wonder. Her poem “Inheritance” was selected as a finalist for the 2023 James Hearst Poetry Prize.