by Clay Carpenter

You get to the point where you think, I’m ahead —
I’m sticking to the exercise plan.
The covered patio is repaired,
the fishbowl is clean,
the lawn is mowed —
And there is a charge that you get
maybe a half dozen times
in your life.
You’re on top of things.
It lasts about five steps before you remember
that you haven’t changed the oil
in more than four months, and you realize
that maybe this is as close to being on top of things as you will come
because no matter how hard you work
something’s always overdue —
a library book,
a video,
replacing the air conditioner filter,
painting the house,
saying ‘I love you’ to your children,
calling your parents,
cleaning the refrigerator,
buying new shoes,
writing a poem

by Clay Carpenter

Look up at the television
at work and see a talk show:
first televised reunion of
the famous sitcom family

the sardonic, irrepressible Midwest mom
the gruff dad
the sisters who couldn’t be less alike
They all look the same
as they did 15 years ago

they sit with a strange man
Who is this man sitting with
the famous sitcom family? Is there
a character you forgot?

a second later you recognize him
as the boy —
the baby of the family,
a bit of an afterthought on the show —
sensitive and brooding,
slightly awkward,
like a part made for a different vehicle
that fits roughly and works well enough

he’s a man now,
charming Larry King,
tall and confident, as if he belongs there

when you recognize him you choke a little,
thinking of your youngest, suddenly five,
complaining in the car this morning
that she’s too old for her safety seat,
the straps of the thing straining
against her shoulders


Clay Carpenter is a copy editor in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Both of these poems have themes of time. As a father of 5- and 7-year-old
daughters, I often feel as though I’m at war with time. There’s never enough,
and I often find myself in a race to do everything I need to do. In “Running,”
I try to give voice to the feeling of failure I’m left with at the end of the day.  
“Reunion” concerns another feeling that I imagine I share with many other
parents. It’s an unsettling fact of life that when you’re a kid, childhood seems
to last forever, but as a parent, it flies by at breakneck speed. It makes you
want to savor every little daily reunion with your children.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 1, Number 1
(Spring 2006)

Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.