FIVE POEMS by Amy Sara Carroll

Built Environmental –isms

How could the heart—albeit, a cliché—not ache at the sight? (Not see Dam/Age?)
Meanwhile, the mind works overtime not to aestheticize aerial perspectives.
An ink stain’s never an ink stain for the Enlightened. Let’s call it a Rorschach test.
Abstract as expression –isms, oil spills… the sea floor, hemorrhaging…
barrier islands, Christo-wrapped (“absorption and theatricality”)… containment? Boom!
This poem mustn’t.
Must not possess my Gulf of Mexico.
Instead, particle capitalism once again improves upon old maxims:
There are no natural disasters.
Dispersants for habitat fragmentation!
(“Owing to circumstances beyond our control…”)
Slow or quick—to violence—bed, rock geological time.
An anti-oxidant, an anti-inflammatory medication, the ubiquitous creosote bush rejuvenates itself via a cloning process. With a life span upwards of 9,000 years, it is esteemed by the Tohono O’odham to be the oldest living thing on earth. Ten years after a 1962 Nevada thermonuclear explosion destroyed twenty-one creosote bushes, twenty re-sprouted as if to protest, “We will not be moved.” Hiroshima mon amour—no ghosts, no burns, no shadows. The creosote bush simply grows—a survival artist.

Éνα αντιοξιδωτικó, ένα αντιφλεγμονώδες φάρμακo, το πανταχού παρόν, θαμννώδες κρεόζωτο ανανεώνεται μέσω μιας διαδικασίας κλωνοποίησης. Με μια διάρκεια ζωής πάνω από 9.000 χρόνια, υπολογíζεται από τους Tohono O’odham ότι είναι ο παλαιότερος οργανισμός του πλανήτη. Δέκα χρόνια μετά από μια θερμοπυρηνική έκρηξη στην Νεβάδα το 1962 κατέστρεψε είκοσι ενα θαμννώδη κρεόζωτα, είκοσι ξαναφύτρωσαν σε ένα εíδος διαμαρτυρíας, «Δεν θα μετακινηθούμε.» Hiroshima mon amour — óχι φαντάσματα, óχι εγκαύματα, óχι σκιές. Το θαμννώδες κρεόζωτο απλώς μεγαλώνει — ένας καλλιτέχνης επιβίωσης.


An environment—like a word’s connotation—shifts with impact. Minimal. Or, maxed out. “Remains of the day” go black (bodies) and white (objects). Corpses bloat. Paper, plastic, fabric fade, bleached as bones after the meat falls away. Coyote (kahy-oh-tee, borrowed from Mexican Spanish, borrowed from Nahuatl, cóyotl): Canis latrans. Trickster. Coyote (co-yo’-tay, borrowed from Canis latrans): Youngest child. Middleman. Human trafficker.


Ich liebe Amerika und Amerika liebt mich

Eine Umwelt – und eine Wortbedeutung – aendert sich mit jedem Eindruck. Minimal. Oder, ganz gross. Die Daemmerung des Tages zeigt sich (koerperlich) schwarz oder (gegenstaendlich) weiss. Leichen blaehen auf. Papier, Plastik, Stoff bleicht, ausgelutscht wie Knochen wenn das Fleisch abgefallen ist. Coyote (kahy-oh-tee, aus dem Mexikanisch-Spanischen, vom Nahuatl, cóyotl): Canis latrans. Jupp Beuys in Amerika, wie man sich das so vorstellt: Schelm. Coyote (co-yo’-tay, vom Canis latrans): draussen in der Wueste: das juengste Kind. Mittelmann. Sklavenhaendler.



To mark the passing of the year, to consider questions of borders and liminality, and to think about the intersections between public, land, and performance art, members of P.P.P. created two poems, each fifteen by ten feet (the size of Henry David Thoreau’s ideal room) where the Corpus Christi Municipal Beach ends and the Padre Island National Seashore begins on December 27th. The poems could not be other than ephemeral, marking, and marked by, the passage of time (conversations between the sand and sea). The day after, Patrick and Amy Carroll revisited the poems to find each text had undergone “revision,” displaying the tracks of birds, crabs, and coyotes. [Participants included: Joyce Purdy, Kit Purdy, Katie Carroll, Donna Carroll, Patrick Carroll (junior and senior), Pat McGonigle, Sylvia Carroll, Amy Carroll, Allison Senf, Joshua Harris, Lena Kirichuk. Ana Mendieta serves as our obvious influence.]

[partially archived at]

(A WAY)—


"Our Glasses"




The first poem directly addresses the spill. The second and third are taken from a project, titled the Transborder Immigrant Tool [TBT] (see that I have been collaborating on since 2008.

At the heart of that latter project are questions about environmental –isms (racism and otherwise), public policy, and the roles of art/poetry. With help from Border Angels and Water Station, Inc., my collaborators and I have designed a cell phone platform that will supply migrants or walkers in the Mexican-U.S. borderlands with both poetry and the coordinates of the nearest water caches (surely living waters!). Elsewhere I have written of TBT:

A poetic gesture from its inception, TBT realizes the possibilities of G.P.S. as both a “global positioning system” and, what, in another context, Laura Borràs Castanyer and Juan B. Gutiérrez have termed, a “global poetic system” (2009). TBT includes poems for psychic consultation, that I have written and codesigned in the mindset of Audre Lorde’s pronouncement that “poetry is not a luxury.” Yet, the location of the poetic, or perhaps its dislocation, is not only in the particular poems uploaded onto the project cell phone platform. Instead, the project as a whole functions as a poem-to-be-rehearsed to remap the continent, to interrupt discourses which, ensconced in their own aesthetic of market-oriented “transparency” meets military-industrial-complex, reduce the would-be crosser to debris or felon.

I am including two poems from that project here, along with some of their translations (many are also in Taiwanese and Spanish). The Greek translation of one of the poems was done by Yanoula Athanassakis. The German translation was done by Petra Kuppers. Versions of this project, including its poems, will be on display in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (June 2010), in “Center Centered: A Festival of Locative Media and Urban Community” (San Francisco, June 2010), in Galería de la Raza (San Francisco, June 2010) as a billboard, and in the California Biennial (October 2010). Previously, four of the poems were featured at ISEA 2009 (Dublin, Ireland).


Amy Sara Carroll is an assistant professor of American Culture, Latina/o Studies, and English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research, teaching, and writing interests include Latin/o American contemporary cultural production (performance, art, video, and literature), feminist, queer, and postcolonial theory, inter-American studies, border studies, and critical creative writing. Her academic essays have appeared in TDR, Signs, e-misférica, and the edited volume, Representación y fronteras: el performance en los límites del género. Her poetry has appeared in such journals and anthologies as Version, vandal, HOW2, Rattle, Jubilat, Talisman, Carolina Quarterly , The Iowa Review, Mandorla, Chain, Bombay Gin, Seneca Review, Borderlands, Faultline, and This Bridge We Call Home. She translated and created subtitles and visual poems for Claudio Valdés Kuri’s theatrical production El automóvil gris/The Grey Automobile, which has been performed in such places as the Wexner Center (Columbus, OH), Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), the Portland Institute of Contemporary Arts (OR), the Goodman Latino Theatre Festival (Chicago, IL), the Anglo Mexico Foundation (Mexico City), the Ebert Film Festival (University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), and the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC). Her visual poetry has been displayed in locales like FILE 2008 (São Paulo, Brazil), the San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, CA), the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar (Denver, CO), the Nave Gallery (Somerville, MA), and the Audre Lorde Project (Brooklyn, NY). A chapbook/pamphlet, which she co-edited, of group writing about Transborder Immigrant Tool is forthcoming from Printed Matter, Inc. Her first book of poetry and prints, SECESSION, is forthcoming from Hyperbole Books (an imprint of San Diego State University Press).

3 thoughts on “FIVE POEMS by Amy Sara Carroll

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these. The first one – I wasn’t expecting the oil spill when I delved in. It was haunting and authentic and I love the creosote references. I have some that are 12 feet high in my yard and I won’t let the landscapers take them down.

  2. I am glad to have found these poems, and do love the first one, an ode to so many gulfs, of mexico, a sheen of words that so mercifully builds a new geography while pulling back old curtains, everywhere there are plants, not so far from my gulf was a swamp, the plants there were slippery they always seemed, merlitons too, now a backyard, sit a spell, once here, do you remember, these are so many same places, the water runs deeper, far below.

    thank you, for allowing me this sudden response!

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