Starlight greases the gap between dusk and dew.
Connective Proper .
No need for dreams' sweet life from the well.
Bend dignity, bow my fibers and cells.
Negotiate with phantoms in particular argument.
Balance conundrum’s peculiar restraint.
Apologies collide. Ghosts around the table.
Good China banquet and crystal debate.
Collusion between nightmare and insomnia.
Fringe the fields with knots of songbirds.
Soured milk skimmed from the pail.
Sweet ideas drift the parallels.
Hard seeds ground between stones.
Demon’s fracture to derail holy ones.
What am I to you, to myself?
Early hour, times behest.
Stop-lights where I hold your hand.
Go-lights, wind tossing latitudes of sand.
Sunrise boils between rainbow and a barren view.
Birds and bees have lost their sphere, galvanized fence the final framework.
Parking lot – cars, a bus, black magic perimeters of designated natural areas.
Chlorinated water paradise foams from ornamental fountains.
Where among roses does a chipmunk rouse safe –
where the hawk sifts oak shadow,
corner of the porch step where a tabby swabs claws; beneath pine bark mulch
where the garter flashes its tongue to scent before it strikes.
Night games to commence illuminated between white
ardent gardener. devout harvest. meditate task/seasons.
tranquil/denial. render – poise – destiny. re-shape/re-shear.
year 66, do not
dislike brutal scythe.
ignore blunt blade.
discern/forfeit. etymology – spirit – ode. accord/silence.
old/new, hate/love, next sun. next beautiful sun.
Change loss to the new thing. Survival’s sake:
envelop tatters and treasons, accept fair penalty.
Step back. Gourds clonk in breeze. Lightning at dusk
switchblades the oak. New bestseller in my lap –
dog-ear page. Butterfly dances the wind-chime.
Silence of lovebirds; transient ring.
Resist truth that would exile sun and moon.
Recant past triumphs; ignore fear of future.
Strap sack of stones over my shoulder, like salt,
outweigh a freight of maybe. Innuendoes
crisscross the porch. Book’s spine creaks closed.
Ill-fitted garland and gold; itinerant bling.
Stamp my feet through paces from her tomb.
Stroll dumb regions. Walk our final hound.
Feed some pigeons. Comfort of bare feet.
Pallet saddens to burgundy. Skim the final chapter.
Flame to a cold home; clatter of gallant bones.
Red hawk in a tree; imminent sting.
An un-windy day. Water-rings – reread last page.
Neighbor’s hound barks. Expect a starless night.
Stop infliction to a porous heart. Scotch.
Debate each friendly truce. Snuff the short
candle. Dream best I can.
The Telephone Game
-- Chestnut Street School, 1965
Teacher halts our line outside the cafeteria.
Mass-produced lunch bland as fourth-grade
curriculum. Chips, starchy buns, white milk
cartons without missing children’s faces.
Miss Daniels whispers in a schoolmate’s ear:
It is supposed to rain tomorrow.
Telephone: our game to distract hunger
while fidgeting in the checkered tile-floor hall.
A phrase to sprint the next classmate’s pulse.
Lips to lobe creating a filament buzz
across an innocent nape:
It is supposed to rain . . .
Curtailed sentence recited to me as one
word silences itself. With partial message,
I turn to Emily with my mischievous
tongue, rogue syllables reinvented
against her hair:
We are close to being strange.
My code disrupts her bright-eyed glint.
I wink, Teacher’s proper sentence twisted
into text to mull over soup. Boys & Girls
before any dance. My gibberish
a gawky gesture of romance:
Our clothes are feeling strange. . . .
Emily grins at curvy Annie. They giggle,
now vulgar angels. Her revamped tale
like newsprint rain-blurred in wet grass.
After lunch, beneath grey skies, we all
stampede across playground sand.
Sam Barbee has a new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer (2021, Main Street Rag). His previous poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. His poems have appeared recently Poetry South, Literary Yard, Asheville Poetry Review, and Adelaide Literary Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals American Diversity Report, Exquisite Pandemic, Verse Virtual, The Voices Project, and Medusa’s Kitchen.
He was awarded an "Emerging Artist's Grant" from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem "The Blood Watch"; and is a two-time Pushcart nominee.
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