What do you need? the Quiet Man asked
when I knocked again at his door.
What do you want?
He was closing up.
I don’t know, I said.
Woolf, Anbesol, Baldwin, Keats,
I’ll take anything.
I knew sometimes he slept right there in his shop,
with blankets on the bottom shelf,
history above, Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists to the left.
Papers littered his desk
and the floor where we lay our heads,
letting the pure products of the shapely mind
inform the equally combustible body.
Who is it who says the closer you are
to an irreversible apocalypse the more fragile
We slid the dictionaries from the shelves
and opened them to apocalypse,
the word on everyone’s lips.
As if we could ever bid these joys farewell.
From Human Hours. Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Barnett. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press.
Except for the shirt pulled from the ocean, except for her hands, which keep folding the shirt, except for her body, which once held their bodies, my sister wants everything back now-- If there were a god who could out of empty shells carried by waves to shore make amends-- If the ocean saved in a jar could keep from turning to salt-- She's hearing things: bird calling to bird, cat outside the door, thorn of the blackberry against the trellis.
From Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced by Catherine Barnett. Copyright © 2004 by Catherine Barnett. Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.
I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.
From The Game of Boxes by Catherine Barnett. Copyright © 2012 by Catherine Barnett. Published by Graywolf Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.