Best of the Net Nominations 2014
Best of the Net Nominations 2014
[for work published between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014]
Julie Brooks Barbour
“If you had never known fear” [October 9, 2013]
“Legacy” [June 18, 2014]
“The Gun” [October 2, 2013]
“Child Sobbing at the Library” [December 11, 2013]
“The Pleasure’s in the Doing” [February 5, 2014]
“You Arrive Carrying Apples” [April 2, 2014]
If you had never known fear
If you had never been told what to avoid,
where not to walk at night. If you had never
heard stories of girls who went out alone,
the violent endings that keep you hyperaware
and vigilant. If your body could be something
other than desire’s object. If you could be taller.
If you could throw a punch and land it squarely.
If you could run faster. If you had been born
a force, your body meant to be muscle, all strength.
Your mind must be able to expel ghosts
and their haunts, the images men create.
You must notice shadows that move toward you
among dark streets. You must learn every street
and alley, every corner. If you had never known fear
then you would not know how to organize the city,
your own neighborhood, which route might be
quickest in the event. You must never finish
that sentence. You must avoid the dead end.
Perhaps the clouds
are good for something,
bumping elbows overhead,
though I can’t know what,
on my couch, counting thunder.
Already, the blanket
is not warm enough,
the fire not bright enough,
the pantry sparse.
Everything old hurts new today
and I don’t know if it is me
swelling in my son’s eyes.
What awful gifts we give our children.
I never meant this bolting,
days shortened so suddenly
his open hands grasp at sun.
Outside the swing set abandoned.
He and I lit to stillness
in our separate rooms.
I am sorry–for the clouds,
the couch, my sorrows
stair-stepping their way to you
through a few wrecked genes–
for this rainy day that sent
our curtains reeling to close.
I never knew the boom
my love would make in you.
Soul may be the most damaged word,
to watch the tree bloom
and return to earth…
a sense of humor, the scent of ash
and the sobbing of wolves…
stand on end and seem to gallop in the wind.
They cross the sidewalk, they cross
the long grasses and fallow plains, they fold into the evening
to smell the carbon
from which we all are made.
I’m sorry if my hands are a little cold.
I’m sorry if this is the way of the world.
You have very shiny eyes, it’s true, they are
like two dimes under the sun.
Carbon, we can tell the ages of fossils and moons by it,
and of our hands,
but not of our thoughts.
We did not need water, we did not need water,
we were water, and though
fate is a star you cannot place
on your astronomical charts, it burns brightly, it has lived
billions of years
and has billions left to live. Eventually
you could learn its secrets, which of its chemicals
commingle at the ball
draped in fine fabrics and jewelry and all the propriety
And that learning will, like carbon, like water, become need.
Go on, go on ahead of me, let the sand go on
for miles. It’ll always be a beach, even one grain.
Go on complaining against the automobiles. We are each
taking care of its family. We are asphalt.
In the summer a child will wonder
why our surface appears
watery, though it is not. To think, a miracle in the real world:
the miracle is the time before and after the miracle.
So let’s not worry
that’s a long time from now.
A black fog,
a black fog you run through,
a black fog you run through, and run through,
past the church, past the post office, past convenience store and firehouse, past the cemetery, down the winding road, through the hairpin turn, past the pale trailers whose tire swings cradle boys yet to know girls, past the anonymous houses, brick houses and mobile homes and houses on stilts, until you see the schoolyard, you see the openness that is the way to the big river, you see the steel mill with its blood orange metal, you know you could enter the highway and continue running, past the burnt out hole of the city, past the paper factory now only an idea, removed like ambition save for its single smokestack and the stories about it, and the river, along the river, the original thoughts, from the very beginning, when shouting and listening were different only to those far away—
you can follow the route of all heroes to a new home—
you can smash a spider with a shoe, or make
the tender deadbolt align ecstatically—
you can do this and say there is no need for fear
in the purple of the night, when a man outside, nearby,
cocks a gun.
Child Sobbing at the Library
Suddenly the quiet, that empty jug,
is being filled
with crying. A child is sobbing: not the wailing
of a slapped kid,
and not the tearful screeching of demands
and whining. No,
it is a child crying for something lost
or broken, something
that will never be replaced.
I listen, loving
the sound, as I love a lone violin
or muted trumpet
slowly filling the bowl of silence.
It is the crying
that I’ve lost, and will never have
again. I want
that child to cry and cry for everything
I’ve lost, every love
I’ve squandered, everything I should’ve
done. Cry for
my deaf father sitting hunched
in front of his loud TV,
for the house on Kenmore Street, for the tea
we drank, falling in love,
for the novels I’ll never read, for the great
paintings hanging unseen
all night in empty museums, for the cities
of the world—all
their joyful streets, all their terrors—
for the dead and the way
time shoves us along, ignoring every
protest. Cry child,
and let it be the song, trapped beneath
this flat bone,
here where my ribs come together.
The Pleasure’s in the Doing
Katsushika Hokusai, Kajikazawa in Kai Province, woodblock, c. 1830-1834
As if stirring from sleep,
thick banks of mist wade
the mountain’s easy slope.
Only the peak is real.
Here, an arm of green
cliff over the wave’s
blue cold, and four lines
down into a wash of caps.
Back bent with the current
as though retelling a story
to the wind, the fisherman
waits the tug at his hard
but patient hand. Something
dark slips away into silence,
something beautiful opens
its terrible jaws.
You Arrive Carrying Apples
Today, in a terrible rainstorm, you arrive,
one great might-have-been, to sweep me out
of my wind-blown cottage, bearing produce
and white chrysanthemums with petals curled.
I am not sure you are still welcome. The holidays
were rather bad, your natural dawdling almost
turned disaster, but now there is abundance in
every direction, nights of red wine, singing.
When a church bell rings, it shakes the rafters,
some lathes and a thin coat of plaster raining down
on our drunken heads. We continue hammering
at the fuzzy places, full of disgust and enthusiasm.
I try to be magnificent, horrible, what you want,
but I am not sure I succeed. We pass out on the floor
littered with apple cores. As we sleep, all the chimneys
come down. We wake and walk amidst the rubble.