California Dreaming: Poetry by Casey Carney

When summer flares out like an exploding tire
Across buckling asphalt
Beneath the ceaseless rush of metal
California, Nevada, Utah
Desert rest stops resemble rib cages 
Another heat wave in prison country
The big trucks about to pin me in 
I swerve and floor it down the concrete wall 
Hell or high water, five days to cross
Billboard evangelism warnings
“There’s no air conditioning in Hell”
But there is in my car, thank God
Still shaking in a hotel room
Next to a carnival in Iowa
The distant screams of strangers
Twelfth hour of driving
I stop to pick a up rock in Eerie
Where my mother was born
They’re all strangers to me now
Lightening in the rear view mirror
Rest stops become green, cicadas buzzing
Sea to shining sea
Reversing my father’s journey
One giant step closer to Ireland
Something that did not occur to me
Red and green traffic lights
Glinting off roadside gravestones
Go and stop, stop and go
With neon gold in between
Receding California dream
Casey Carney

Casey Carney was the 2014-2016 Poet Laureate of Lake County. During her term, she curated and hosted numerous live poetry events and facilitated poetry workshops for youth and adults. Casey collaborated with the Rivera Common Grounds Coffee Shop and the Lakeconews to present the Lake County Poet Laureate Reading Series, which featured readings by, or the work of, the seven poets laureate who preceded her, along with guest poets and musicians. Casey wrote feature articles for each reading to reintroduce the vibrant lineage of poetry in Lake County. When asked to highlight her most memorable experiences as poet laureate, Casey says she enjoyed encouraging people to reclaim poetry and art as an essential human need. “People would often wistfully tell me that they used to write poetry, and I loved to encourage them to begin again. Art is a birthright. In any art form, technique can expand the creative voice, but it can be misused to create hierarchy, discourage or exclude. You can absolutely reclaim art if you want. It belongs to you.” Casey, who lived in Lake County for eleven years, drove across the country in August of 2020 to relocate to Vermont. She currently works in manufacturing and attends a local poetry workshop. Casey enjoys touring the East Coast with her camera. She recently was certified as a Lifeguard through the American Red Cross, and works part-time in this role.

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