"Proud Flesh," by Carolyn Smart

Book Cover Careen

Carolyn Smart's new collection, Careen, re-envisions the Bonnie and Clyde story, drawing on first-person accounts and other primary sources to present a narrative that most of us know best through film. In this poem, a member of the Barrow Gang recounts the frenetic pace of their life on the run, its inherent dangers, and the remarkable bond that existed between them. 

*****

Proud Flesh

  

It was not bullets flyin round the risks we took

that carved my deepest scar, it was the drivin:

 

one mad night when Clyde flipped off the road

and all was sudden mayhem, overturn disaster,

 

knee to ankle burned into a flesh-made trench.

I do not now recall much of those early hours.

 

To wake and feel myself pried from the car

onto the legs of strangers, then into dark again

 

and drivin through the night, some woods-deep hidden room,

lifted into bed, from there to toilet when I needed it,

 

me screamin, drinkin brew, they poured all that they had

into my care and brought my sister there for aid and comfort.

 

Sobbed tears, prayed hard, pain greater than I could ever reckon.

I don't recall much til my leg drew up beneath me

 

and the evenins mornins afternoons all one long hurt and drink

like armor on the outside of an open wound, raised up and thick,

 

a bindin that held us fast. It was one thing Clyde did wrong

that wretched rushin night and crash there at the bridge,

 

but when alone, our wounds displayed one to the other, it was

a pledge of all we were, which would not break nor bend.

 

Book Cover Careen

About Careen:

Remember Bonnie & Clyde? A complex, dramatic rendering of a familiar story made new.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are the stuff of legend—why tell their story again? Chances are you don't know the nuances—their love story and that of their accomplices Buck Barrow and his wife Blanche; their aspirations, conflicts and prayerful natures; and ultimately the sources of their tragedy. At its core, Careen is a long poem spoken by the characters, though the voices are companioned by newspaper articles often ironically at odds with the inside story. Smart lets the principal actors relate their own tale—a book of voices speaking out of the desperate dirty thirties.

About Carolyn Smart:

Carolyn Smart has written six previous collections of poetry, including The Way to Come Home and Hooked: Seven Poems. Her memoir, At the End of the Day, won first prize in the 1993 CBC Literary Contest. Smart is the founder of the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and an editor for the Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series of McGill-Queen’s University Press; since 1989 she has taught Creative Writing at Queen’s University. She lives with her family in the country north of Kingston. 

April 11, 2016
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