Breathe Easy | The New Engagement

Breathe Easy

By Dan Carpenter
Breathe Easy by Dan Carpenter, story art

At Our Gay Café
Ante-Obergefell v. Hodges

Let’s not kid ourselves.
Yes, we’re like everybody around us,
But like nobody here
in our sin,
conspicuous and scarlet as our mismatched loins.

Straight couple; crooks to our spouses.
We’ve chosen our course
as we chose this vaporous island
where we fled to hide and talk fucking
among men who’ve fled here in weariness
from fucking hiding –
law, politics, religion denying them
what our own vows –
bona fide, blessed, freely taken for God’s sake –
criminalized for us.

Extramarital, the whole crowded room;
and we two must feel guilt
over a guilt we cannot share,
a right they’re not permitted to wrong,
a promise they look at me knowing
some of them at least would have the balls to keep.

Yet there remains a kinship
here, free for my taking,
as is this woman who is not mine.

Ah, my feral fugitive little girl,
I fantasize them
fantasizing us
as I once fantasized us,
and now I atone for our glorious hell-bound reality
by bequeathing it to them, stuff of their dreams.


Epiphany: She Noticed the Poor Are More Likely to Be Blind

When her life opened
it was the wet
that she saw and heard
as every schoolkid knows

all of us nod at the most apt
of memorials, the bronzed
little girl in pinafore
caressing the iron pump handle

we smile at the fullness
of famed womanhood,
this harbor light from darkness
universally beamed

what we miss
is the darkness
she perceived
and so eloquently cursed

reliably blind and deaf
to the radical clarity
of our pet heroes –
our Einsteins and Christs and Kings –
we confine the water to a pail
of metaphor
when it stood for nothing
other or smaller than itself –

sacrament, not symbol –
falling upon her whole
from unfathomable distance
as a blast of cold sightedness
from which only the rest of us
could shut eyes and ears
and live out the death
of normal


With Your Indulgence

In the camps in Darfur, it is said, they elected to have the women venture out to forage for firewood because they would be raped if they were caught but perhaps, unlike the men, not murdered. In the towns in Gaza, it is said, they have even the troubled childbirths at home because they cannot hope for a car or ambulance to make it through the rubble or the checkpoints. In the basements where breathing stopped with the pauses overhead in the bootsteps of the Gestapo, it is said, someone had to be prophet enough to strangle the babies. In this time and place, they say to the childlike who cry out for the world from the luxury of guilt, Quit beating yourself up.






Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer, poet and former Indianapolis Star columnist. A native and resident of Indianapolis, he has published poetry and fiction in numerous journals. He is the author of two collections of poems and two books of selected articles from his journalism.

Join Us!

Mercy, ingenuity, nuance, complex truths, guts and honor still matter! Join us in proclaiming so by purchasing, or giving the gift of, The New Engagement in print.

Order Today!

Follow Us

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."
~ James Baldwin

Help us spread the ethos of compassion and understanding by joining our social media networks and sharing generously!

Contests & Prizes

Flash Fiction Contest
On May 1st, we announced the winners of our Flash Fiction Contest: Thomas Garcia (1st), Rick Krizman (2nd), and Rios de la Luz (3rd). Read more.

The James Baldwin Literature Prize
It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of The James Baldwin Literature Prize of $1,000 to Hafsa Musa. Read more.

The New Engagement

The New Engagement endeavors a novel approach to discovering, introducing, and showcasing writers, artists, and filmmakers, by providing them digital and print platforms, while encouraging and supporting their social-consciousness.