Carol Ann Wilburn – Tilling

Wilburn LE P&W 4 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Four Nov-Dec 2023.

Tilling, poems by Carol Ann Wilburn.


Would take on the feel of yesterday
if I could put my finger on it.
You and I together, moved
by the same frenzy.

You, the sweat darkening
your shirt and bringing a shine
about your hairline. You loved
the pain the tilling brought you.
It was a gift the way it burnt
places inside and set you
back, then forward again to here,
the soreness a relief.

Meanwhile I scurried
about the place in search
of this or that chair. I poked
around in the garden shed.
How I loved the warm earthy richness
that only sun can lend to cooped up
rakes and trowels and garden gloves,
dirt-worn and familiar.

And you, tilling still,
your labor broken only
for long drinks or to wipe away
the salty grit. How puffed up,
satisfied you looked when stopping
to take in the new ground
beaten up. You asked the time,
told me of some delicious new ache,
then set to work again.

Moved by some need to pull
the inside out or draw the outside
closer in, I gathered up plants
and carried them out one by one:
the “Country Girl” geranium,
the bromeliad for our engagement,
the ivy I bought in the fall.

The air about us not of spring
but hot, adjusting our bodies
to summer’s pace, while Chuck our cat
rolled in the grass. Then it was
just the breeze and us. Time,
not some measure of efficiency
but of home.

Kentucky Derby 2020

for Breonna Taylor

Not on the first Saturday in May,
but on the brink of fall in my hometown.
No fans or rainbow of ladies’ hats
or Mint Juleps. No losing tickets
scattering the grounds
of Churchill Downs. Forget cheering crowds
wall-to-wall in the infield
amid the echoes of Derby Days. Instead,

in Covid time, we spectators
are screen-bound, cut off from sharing
what’s real and momentary. We feel
boundless, weightless in the freedom and joy
that only live experience can inspire.
All that lifts us, helps to forget what holds us
so tightly to this earth.

But not now.

We watch as thoroughbreds race inside the track,
while — in split-screen — generations
of protesters seek justice. They protest outside
in a line that snakes
all the way back to last March
when a young black woman in Louisville
was gunned down in her bed.

Tell me, can we ever be truly free?


Waning sun,
you take away
summer’s exquisite
heat and light.

Day dims, clocks
turn back. We find
ourselves teetering
on winter’s edge

with late sundowners
and Santa Anas.
They scourge, explode

into menacing claws
of fire like some sinister
beast, leaving verdant beauty
scorched, burnt-out houses
and cars, all skeletons

of people’s lives.
I remember that knock
on the door Get out now!
Wind and fire headed
right at us. The mad dash
to grab all we could,
helicopters deafening
overhead, air choked
with toxic smoke,
the run for our lives,
chasing refuge.

Ever since, dread lingers
in the deep-down of us,
grabs hold
at any sudden wind
hint of smoke
a siren’s blast of danger.

© Carol Ann Wilburn

Carol Ann Wilburn started writing poetry at a young age, a practice she has continued throughout her life. Select poems were published in April 2021 in While You Wait, a poetry anthology for the Santa Barbara, California community. Her poetry has also appeared in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, and in The Bryant Literary Review. Most recently, her poem, “My Piano Man”, was the winner of the 2022 Carol DeCanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize, which recognizes individual poems by Santa Barbara County emerging poets. Carol has recently completed her first chapbook.

2 Replies to “Carol Ann Wilburn – Tilling”

  1. I cannot wait for you book!!! Your words put me in so many moments making me remember but, more importantly,
    making me feel again and giving me that new feeling of feeling something past again — not sentiment; but present

  2. Dear Carol,
    What pleasure to see your poems here in all their honest truthfulness of deep love. A joy for me you can be sure. Congratulations for carefully rendering a time forever present to be cherished on the eve before Thanksgiving.

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