This evening I shared a cab with a priest
who said it was a fine day to ride cross town

with a writer. But I can't
finish the play I said,

it's full of snow.
The jaywalkers

walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
someone's hand.

Some of the best sermons
don't have endings, he said

while the tires rotated unceasingly
beneath us.

All over town people were waiting
and doubleparked and

making love and waiting.
The temperature dropped

until the shiverers zipped their jackets
and all manner of things started up again.

More by Catherine Barnett

Living Room Altar

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.

Sweet Double, Talk-Talk [iv.]

iv.

I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.

Chorus

So who mothers the mothers
who tend the hallways of mothers,
the spill of mothers, the smell of mothers,
who mend the eyes of mothers,
the lies of mothers scared
to turn on lights in basements
filled with mothers called by mothers in the dark,
the kin of mothers, the gin of mothers,
mothers out on bail,
who mothers the hail-mary mothers
asleep in their stockings
while the crows sing heigh ho carrion crow,
fol de riddle, lol de riddle,
carry on, carry on—

Related Poems

Providence

What's left is footage: the hours before
       Camille, 1969—hurricane
              parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
       fronds blown back,

a woman's hair. Then after:
       the vacant lots,
       boats washed ashore, a swamp

where graves had been. I recall

how we huddled all night in our small house,
       moving between rooms,
              emptying pots filled with rain.

The next day, our house—
       on its cinderblocks—seemed to float

       in the flooded yard: no foundation

beneath us, nothing I could see
       tying us 	to the land.
       In the water, our reflection
                                trembled,
disappeared
when I bent to touch it.