Barbara Goldberg


Real, mean, a stitch in,
any way you cut it, you're in it,
up to your gills in it, you rise
in it and sink, that great leveler,
you kill it, live on borrowed tock
and tick, once upon a it
begins and then goes by as I
will love you till the end of it.


And from the loins of Reason and Passion
springs Grief, a surly, birdlike boy

who refuses to cry. No gurgling, no babbling,
no scattershot foray into the dense

and dissonant world, choosing instead
to stay mute, to absorb it all

through his eyes, his parents, their singular
deadlock. Passion has no patience

for Grief, nor Reason, the stomach,
so consumed are they by each other.

Grief grows in time as time grows
in him, each nanosecond adding

to his girth. Soon he's wearing
a polka dot vest on his way to school

where he loses his marbles, is pelted
with dumplings. He finds refuge lying

flat on his back in an open field
where he studies the sky, the inhabitants

thereof, at ease in that recitative,
consoled by the heavenly undertones.


The Lord is my shepherd
He rides a red tractor
His work boots caked
With earth and dried dung

He leadeth His sheep
Beside the green pastures
His black dog yapping
To keep them in line

They bow their heads down
To nibble the clover
And lap still waters
They do not want

Nor fear any evil
Grazing in shadows
Their guttural baahs
Akin to amen


We are all visitors here in a country with no
standing army. There are rain forests
with five species of monkeys. Birds
and fish flashing neon colors. In short
a land of plenty where no one goes hungry,
no movies, no Chinese restaurants, no
karaoke bars. We are all visitors.

What place is this, Eden? But gnats
bite our ankles and we have no repellant,
no pills for depression, no shade
at high noon. At night the stars are
magnificent, but after a while even they
grow old. Or is it us and the sea
which is way too salty. We are visitors.

And the god who oversees our lot, casting
a liquid eye on everything that moves
or is still—steam rising from a red snapper
stew, crushed berries in a makeshift
drinking gourd, is he too a visitor standing
out in a crowd, not speaking the language
or merely one in disguise, staying for good?


This morning, before any bird stirs, we rise
to a world without particulars, huddled

under covers of slate. By the time the first
tinge of pink stains the sky we are driving

untrafficked roads to the terminal where many
small surgeries are performed. Too soon

you sling your black satchel over your shoulder,
a traveler bound to a land sundered by rage.

I head back to town in my blue caravan
with only the shadow of heft, the echo of parry

and thrust. I see you squeezed in a narrow space,
oppressed by loss and the flesh of strangers.

In fact you are flying home via Zurich
and the cool remove of stewards in starched

shirts, the wilderness of your chest still fragrant
with the smell of sex. Tonight an unfettered

moon will graze terrains of our own forgetting.

Barbara Goldberg
Barbara Goldberg is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, Marvelous Pursuits, winner of the Violet Reed Haas Award (Snake Nation Press, 1995). The Fire Stays in Red contains her translations of the Iraqi-born Israeli poet Ronny Someck (Wisconsin University Press, Spring 2002). The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the senior speechwriter of a large, nonprofit organization in Washington, DC.



Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Deborah Ager

Karren Alenier

John Allman

Anne Becker

Mel Belin

Bruce Bennett

Doraine Bennett

Cliff Bernier

Doris Brody

Trina Carter

Grace Cavalieri

Norma Chapman

Maritza Rivera Cohen

Yoko Danno

Barbara DeCesare

Donna Denizé

Julie Enszer

Colin Flanigan

Roger Fogelman

Martin Galvin

Barbara Goldberg

JoAnne Growney

Sarita Hartz

James C. Hopkins

John Hoppenthaler

Laurie Hurvitz

Donald Illich

W. Luther Jett

J. Ladin

Diane Lockward

Jason Maffettone

Judith McCombs

Louis McKee

Larry Moffi

Miles David Moore

Yvette Neisser

Brent Pallas

Lee Patton

Hilary Tham

Rosemary Winslow

Kathi Wolfe

Ernie Wormwood










Email this poem

Printer friendly page






Last Updated: Sep 16th, 2007 - 08:34:32

Copyright © 2005 - 2006 Cook Communication.