Carrie Fountain won the 2005 Marlboro Prize in Poetry for her poem, "Experience" selected by Edward Hirsch


When I think of everything I've wanted
I feel sick. There was this night in winter
when Jennifer Scanlon and I were driven
out to the desert to be the only girls there
when the boys got drunk and chose
the weakest among themselves to beat
the living shit out of over and over again
as the dumb night continued in its airy way
to say nothing. I wanted so badly that night
to believe violence was a little bell you could ring
and get what you wanted. It seemed to work
for those boys, who'd established order among
the disorderly wilderness using nothing
but a few enthusiastic muscles. Even after
he'd begun bleeding from his nose, the boy
stayed. It was an initiation is what he believed.
Thank god time erases everything
in this steady impeccable way. Now it's like
I never lived that life, never had to, sitting
on a tailgate while Jennifer asked for advice
on things she'd already done, watching the stars
waver above us. adoring whatever it was
that allowed those boys to throw themselves
fists first at the world, yell every profanity ever
made into the pried-open ear of the universe.
It often occurred to me then that if only
we could get quiet enough, we'd hear
the universe calling hack to us, telling us
what to do next. Of course, if we'd been quiet
we wouldn't have heard anything, and that
silence, too, would have ruined us.

Carrie Fountain, 2005 Marlboro Poetry Prize winner, was a runner-up in the Marlboro Review 2002 poetry prize for her poem "Purple Heart", selected by Eleanor Wilner. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Copyright 2005© Carrie Fountain

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