Tag: Anders Carlson Wee

The Low Passions

The Lord came down because God wasn’t enough. 

He lies on sodden cardboard behind bushes 

in the churchyard. Wrapped in faded red. A sleeping bag

he found or traded for. Dark stains like clouds 

before a downpour. The stone wall beside him rising, 

always rising, the edges of stone going blunt 

where the choirboy climbs. He opens his mouth,

but nothing goes in and nothing comes out.

Like the sideshow man who long ago lost

his right testicle to the crossbar of a Huffy.

He peddles the leftover pain. The stitches clipped 

a week later by his father, the fiberglass bathtub 

running with color, the puffy new scar,

the crooked look of the pitted half-sack.  

He tells me you only need one nut, and I want 

to believe him. I want to believe he can still

get it up. I want to believe he has daughters, sons, 

a grandchild on the way, a wife at home 

in a blue apron baking. But why this day-old bread 

from the dumpster, this stash of hollow bottles

in the buckthorn, this wrinkled can of Pabst?

The Lord came down because God wasn’t enough.

Because the childless man draws the bathwater

and cries. Because the choirboy never sings 

as he climbs. Because the bread has all molded

and the mouths are all open. Open to the clotting air.

Homeless, anything helps. Anything. Anything you can 

spare. God bless you, God bless you, God bless. God, 

Lord God, God God, good God, good Lord very good God.




Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

News

Whoever you are, they take care of you. 

Dean leans over and labors the crank-window, 


asking where you need to go. Lillian shows 

how to clean and reload. Tucker. The Lees. 


Savannah shrunk by cancer. Lyle by diet, 

ordering you what he can’t eat. Hands that pass 


the double cheese and hands that steer the wheel, 

a foot floored toward Tennessee, our necks keeping 


Hendrix’s beat. Each morning another warning 

about the darkness out there. Triple murder, 


no suspects. Alien abductions in the Palouse. 

A family gone missing. A family found, 


their organs removed. Each day, against all this 

breaking news, another stranger saving you.



Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Great Plains Food Bank

The wind is in the trees again, and I’m thinking it’s a wonder

the body can move. The way the mother at the Fargo food bank

fingers a can of concentrated juice. The way the line keeps

heaving forward. The way the child tugs the heavy skirt.

My job is to look for the elderly, help them load. Like the guy 

who grew up in Oslo and is still trying to make it to Bergen. 

It’s a straight shot on the train, he says, but you have to be 

in Norway to catch it. I lift his meat and yogurt onto a cart. 

I wait as he chooses nine of the least bruised carrots.

The trunk of his car has the smell of dried flowers, and his 

baguettes fit lengthwise easily. But before I help him lower

himself into the driver’s seat, and before his hands pass over

one another, turning into the northbound traffic, he tells me

I’m young. Tells me it’s spring. Says I should be out of here,

heading for Bergen. I know he’s right. I know he’s 

so goddamn right. I stand as still as I can as he leaves.



Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Gathering Firewood on Tinpan

I bundle them against my chest, not sure 

if they’re dry enough. Gauging how long 

they’ll keep me warm by the thickness. 

I step around carefully, looking for 

the deadest, searching the low places 

for something small and old that will catch. 

I pick up the dander loosened 

as my father folds his hands, lowers his head. 

The rolling thunder on the surface of a nail. 

I pick up the cross that seesaws his chest 

with each step. The day I lost my faith. 

The night my dog ran away and came back sick. 

The battery-pump of her final breath. 

Still wondering if she left alone, 

or if my father walked her out of this world. 

Still wondering what he used for a leash. 

I go further into the trees and find 

more fuel. My friends faded on oxy 

and percocet. My cousin Josh 

buried young in the floodplain.

My brother and the ways I burden him. 

Living it over and over each night. 

My father walking into every dream. 

My fire not bright enough to reveal anything. 

Not even his face. Not even the leash.



Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

County 19

I twist in my seat beside the woman who picked me up 

on County 19, reaching back to help her son 

eat his Happy Meal. I fly a french fry through the air,

thinking how weird it is to hitch a ride on the road 

I’ve driven so many times with my dad––

the route between our house and the old folks home 

where Grandma lasted alone for fourteen years. 

Each time we visited: the veins wider, bluer, 

the ankles thinner, the distances between bedsores 

diminished, the cheer my dad convinced himself to feel 

as he repeated the litany: I am your son. 

This is your grandson. We’re so happy to see you.

The woman asks me where I’m going 

and I say as far as you can take me,

but as we pass the old folks home I tell her to pull over. 

The boy is finished with his Happy Meal and now 

he points at the bruise on his elbow and says Ouch.

His mom nods at him in the rearview as I get out. 

That’s right, she says. Ouch. There is the low roofline,

the sign with a bible quote in changeable letters,

my grandma’s old window as blank as it was 

when she lived here, some earth dug up 

in the bordering cornfield for construction 

of a new wing. I think about barging through the doors 

and demanding to see Elizabeth Wee, making 

some kind of scene. I think about setting up camp 

in the hole in the cornfield and refusing to leave. 

But instead I wander the grounds for awhile. 

I lie in the parking lot’s grass island and watch 

the cornstalks feather the road with lank shadows, 

the sunlight dipping down into the tassels. 

I want speed. I want new people. To ditch 

this slow sanitary drain of golden light, 

my pastor parents and their immovable faith, 

this town’s brown river exhausting its banks. 

Elizabeth is underground. So is my cousin. 

Stones like polished teeth in the family plot. 

In the twilight I walk back to the shoulder 

and catch a ride from a farmer hauling a trailer 

stacked with hay bales three-high. When he asks me 

where I’m going I say as far as you can take me.



Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Moorcroft

You gave me a ride when I was lost 

in Wyoming. Took me to your home. 

Showed me your gun collection 

you had to go shoulder-deep through 

the clothes in the closet to reach. 

They were old and unloaded, you told me, 

and you didn’t shoot them anymore, 

just oiled them and kept them perfectly 

clean. I was careful not to flinch 

as I watched the double-barrel raise 

and train on my face. The tooth hole 

you flashed in the grin after. 

The spasm in your hands as you swung 

the gun and pointed it at yourself 

to show evenness. You told me 

about doing five years for murder, 

asked if I would’ve done anything 

different, finding a grown man 

raping my six-year-old niece. 

I wouldn’t change it, you said. 

I wouldn’t take it back. You patted 

your heart with your hand. 

Family is family, you whispered, 

as you brought me clean sheets for my bed. 



Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN