An Elegy for Lovers \ Peter Neil Carroll


poems by

Peter Neil Carroll

ISBN: 978-1-59948-647-5, ~76 pages, $14

Release Date: November, 2017


PCarroll_Px_bookstorePeter Neil Carroll has taught creative writing at the University of San Francisco, taught history and American Studies at Stanford and Berkeley, hosted “Booktalk” on Pacifica Radio, and edited the San Francisco Review of Books. He has published over twenty books, including the memoir, Keeping Time (2011) and his poems have appeared in The Aurorean, Catamaran Literary Review, Cultural Weekly, Sand Hill Review, Southern Humanities Review, Tar River Poetry Review, and Verse Daily. He is currently Poetry Moderator of and lives in northern California with the writer/photographer Jeannette Ferrary.

In Elegy for Lovers, Peter N. Carroll explores the roads not taken. Willie, his alter-ego, and Willie’s doomed lover, Maureen, are the travelers, happiness, the illusive prize. The poet has the upper hand until these persistent characters come alive, override his literary choices, and force Carroll to come to grips with what could have been. A masterful collection by a poet with a probing mind and a delicious imagination. ~Alexis Rhone Fancher, author of ENTER HERE, poetry editor of Cultural Weekly.


 Peter Carroll knows about love and so do his poems. Elegant elegies, unexpected puzzle pieces and many moving parts form this unforgettable and surprising collection. ~Esther Cohen, author of Breakfast with Allen Ginsberg



Passing through mid-life temptation—
intimacies, misdemeanors—a man
like me can slip through the cracks
or meet trouble to last a lifetime.

Somewhere she waits, pulling
like an undertow. She knows
I’m ready for the drowning. She’d
be surprised I make this admission.

Beginning where it began, I call
on my sweethearts, Willie and Maureen,
playmates in this thwarted story
I invented but isn’t mine.

Willie believes his best years
gone, until he learns
of a man-child he never knew he had.
The news destroys dreamless sleep.

He imagines reconciliation
with the child’s mother, Maureen.
Their fling might have lasted,
years without her feel like exile.

Maureen has her own story, good
reasons to be bitter, unforgiving,
though she’s not exactly innocent
and who am I to judge?

The plot gives comfort to
my imaginary friends and to me,
liberating paths I’ve not taken.
I’m old enough to know better.

My daughter, bewildered
by Willie and Maureen’s presence
in suppertime talk, asks how
they’re doing. Not bad, I reply.

So many lives are hard to juggle.
A paying job eased my worries
about old lovers trying to pick up
pieces. I had to put them to rest.

I suspect something deeper, flaws
of perspective. I didn’t like
the Willie I created. I saw in him
too much of myself.


Pure Lies


Willie’s my composite, of course,
drawn from a cohort of writers
anxious to disguise their quirks.

Everyone I know, not to mention
myself, has passed through
various relationships—
gay, straight, bi.

Willie told me once about a roommate
who drew charcoal portraits
of naked women. They looked much
the same, long hair, small breasts,
but when he drew men he discovered
erotic feelings.

Though still a virgin, the roommate
decided he was gay, left the closet.
His sex life did not change
except in his imagination.

I invite my wife to look at Maureen.
Not a memoir, I assure her. Pure fiction.
Pure lies? She puzzles,
what’s the difference?

Questions that set the writer to ponder.
I promise not to implicate her
in any crime, not divulge what might
embarrass her.

Honestly, I’m beyond shame.
So is Willie. He doesn’t care
what I say.

Listen, my wife warns, just don’t talk
about my body in public.


Natural Disaster


Dead alewives float
on low-lapping waves.
A black funnel churns
over Willie and his wife Joyce
and that other couple the McIntyres.
They hear later on the radio
a tornado touched down
wrecking a house inland.

On blankets and damp sand
after dark, the four switch
partners to whisper intimacies.
Such surprise that summer.
Before the kids could swim.
Before the mayor declared
lake water undrinkable.
Before risk and jealousy, rage
dissolved their marriages.

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