In the Coral Reef of the Market / Earl Carlton Huband


In the Coral Reef of the Market

poems by

Earl Carlton Huband

ISBN: 978-1-59948-826-4, ~40 pages, $12 (+ shipping)

Release Date: July 21, 2020


Earl Carlton Huband is the author of The Innocence of Education, winner of Longleaf Press at Methodist University’s 2018 chapbook contest, and In the Coral Reef of the Market, a finalist in the 2019 Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest. Both chapbooks are based on Huband’s experiences as a young Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sultanate of Oman, where he taught English in a remote fishing village near the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Huband’s poetry has been recognized by Peace Corps Worldwide for contributing to cross-cultural understanding (see

Earl Huband’s poems on his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Oman came to my notice when I heard him perform them at poetry readings. They struck me then, and now, as the recollections of a great, paradigmatic adventure–the young American abroad, doing good for reasons not altogether clear to him at the time. The poems are calm and wry, comic and melancholy, straightforward and sneakily subtle, delivered in finely modulated syllabic lines. ~J.S. Absher, author of Mouth Work, winner of 2015 Lena Shull Award

The Peace Corps, in Sickness and in Health


The Khasab hospital corridor
swallows me up. I can hardly breathe.
The murmurings of alien tongues
stop abruptly: I enter the ward.
A Pakistani nurse gestures toward
the closed curtains in the far corner.
I call softly. No answer. “Sally?”

On the boat back to Bukha, I stare
at thin beaches, bare rock cliffs. The scenes
blur. I picture her there, half-propped up,
intravenous solution dripping
into one arm, her free hand clutching,
awkwardly, a rolled-up magazine,
the wasps buzzing at the window panes ––
bedpans, eyes peeping through partitions.

Hepatitis. Garish yellow eyes.



The Ins and Outs of Gastronomy


This evening my intestines are not
the only ones that are tied in knots:
there they sit in the rice before us
as our host urges us to eat, eat.

Timidly, I nibble a small chunk.
Like ill-cooked squid. Or chicken gristle.
Rubbery. My imagination
stirred, I stick to picking at the rice.

Then our host unearths it: a goat’s jaw,
teeth and all, buried in the middle
of the gigantic platter of rice.
My own jaw drops. I try to swallow.

Fighting back, I grab hold of that jaw,
pluck a strip of flesh right off the cheek.
I picture the skimpy strings of meat
on a chicken back, close to the tail.

I nod to our host. “Good, good,” I say.
He smiles –– stirring up the rice –– reaches
for another chunk of intestine,
tosses it across to me: “Eat, eat.”



A Tale of Concern for One’s Fellows


After a fine evening meal, we sit,
the expatriate Arabs and I,
on the porch of the teachers’ quarters
late into the night, telling stories. . . .

Nodding toward the village, Esah says,
“Mister Earl, do you know this story?

Once upon a time there was a man
whose home was falling down around him.

This man spent his time trying to fix
all the other homes in the village.

“No? This is your story, Mister Earl ––
the story, I think, of your Peace Corps.”


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