person Barbara Daniels, three poems

Barbara Daniels’ Talk to the Lioness is forthcoming from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.  Her other full-length book of poetry, Rose Fever, was published by WordTech Press. Daniels’ poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and many other journals. She received three fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.


Invisible Fences

The neighbor dogs
hurl themselves
into invisible fences,

absorb the shocks,
open their mouths
in wet rictuses.

How can you keep on
walking and eating
those cookies

and not see the raisins
as shriveled eyes?
I’m alert as a heron

when traffic spasms
a half block away.
All you see near us

is empty sky, but
I think a hurricane
heads straight

towards us. I’ll fall
without warning—
water glass tipped

to the floor, devices
blinking, talking,
wind down

the chimney sooty
and raw. Look
at those eddies

of gum wrappers,
those dogs with teeth
that almost glow.


How to Earn Your Way

People will pay you to cry
for them—let gravity pull mucous

and tears into vertical strands.
The stump of an arm mourns

a lost hand and the delicate whorls
of its fingertips. Even a dog

remembers his childhood. He
learned to be last, turn his belly

and throat to the teeth of the pack.
A blurred landscape opens

for a sluggish river. White smoke
gathers among the chimneys,

blooming in last light. Nothing is
nothing. Watch for tenons projecting

from beams. Erratic motion.
Planed, polished, toothed wheels.

People will pay for what you know—
where trees are burning, how many

burn, how to put colors onto wheels
and spin them till they disappear.


My Year Without You

In January, finches flapped
their wings like frantic infants
and offered seeds to each other,

rituals of courtship. I turned my back
on a moon wide as two fingers.
In July, delicate Queen Anne’s lace

with its umbels and pedicels
bloomed in yellow light, the left
side of my body sadder, the right

side numb. A gray jay roosted
on gravestones in November. I read
that it’s friendly, but it wouldn’t come

to my hand. Maples waited in dirty
snowbanks. Then spring on probation
stepped through the bars. A sputtering

drainpipe dropped water to soil.
Rain touched my hands and arms.
My face tipped toward the sky.


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