A Miser’s Life, by Barbara Young

A Miser’s Life
By Barbara Young

The trees in the Art Center courtyard are small.
Elms—I think they are; I’ll call them elms—
with stiff leather oval-round leaves that turned
yellow overnight and fell the next night
onto the white gravel. And the wind heaped them
beside the walk; and I had just arrived
when the damn sun suddenly struck coins, right
before my eyes. I had to set my purse down,
had to bend and scoop a double handful.
If the leaves were nasty underneath with damp,
dead bugs and cigarette butts, it really
didn’t matter. They fell through my fingers,
and I was Scrooge McDuck, living large
in a top hat, my hands dripping gold.

Barbara Young is aging without grace in Middle Tennessee. She thinks she’d like to be a poet if she grows up, but won’t bet on it. Her blogs went South for the winter holidays, may now be in Cuba.

To: Despair, in Mid-assembly, Watching, by Barbara Young

To: Despair, in Mid-assembly, Watching
By Barbara Young

the directions–translated
from Ikean
by evil elves–
go blowing off.

Should you chase it? A sad, wild-armed
pink, chaotic

Bury your face and cry? Quick, hide
the evidence;
pretend you don’t–
just sometimes– hope.

Barbara Young is aging without grace in Middle Tennessee. She thinks she’d like to be a poet if she grows up, but won’t bet on it. Her blogs went South for the winter holidays, may now be in Cuba.

Love Is A Dream, by Barbara Young

Love Is a Dream
By Barbara Young

She dreams and, clumsy as an axe,
drops her name on a looking glass,
shattering the sky with lightning.

Love is an immense gray cat,
spike-full of shocks. It crackles,
and rubs against the hills,

purring thunder,
to splinter her.

The sky will settle and rain.
The mirror will be whole again,
but love is frightening.

Barbara Young is aging without grace in Middle Tennessee. She thinks she’d like to be a poet if she grows up, but won’t bet on it. Her blogs went South for the winter holidays, may now be in Cuba.


Often She Arrived To Find Her Mother At The Door
by Barbara Young

Absence began with a stutter-step,
became a rift, a cliff, a flight from
which Mom would return, baffled,
and sad for the bones of her arms.
When the weather let her she would
walk her mother to the lake beyond
the parking lot. She pushed the chair
like a shopping cart, said Look, Mom,
a goldfinch. Said mallard. Cattails.
Said I was rereading the Mahfouz
you gave me and thought. Said
clouds, cumulous. Shopping words
to sustain a dying language. Once
they found her, resting, on a green
rickety park bench. I was going to
the store for bread and that soda
that my daughter likes. Thank you.
I have been longing for a cup of tea.

Barbara’s process notes: My husband, my cousins, my friends. I see strangers–“friends of friends” on Facebook–repeating the forms. We’re on both sides of the cart, slipping from one to the other overnight. This began with a word list prompt.

Barbara Young is aging without grace in Nashville, Tennessee. She likes puns, cats, and fantasy; is prone to depression; drives a car that’s larger on the inside than out. Blogs at FRED HERRING.

Barbara Young


Water boils cold and clear through gravel sand
somewhere in eastern Kentucky, becomes more,
becomes a river. At the first dam, pools back, fills
the steep round valleys with fish. And sky. Steps down
from corps-created lake to lake, will meet
the bigger Ohio near the navel of waters.
We are in Tennessee; river’s turning into lake, summer into fall.
Sonar could display, below us tied to a snub red buoy,
the bed of Birdsong Creek. There’d have been a bank
here near where it joined the Tennessee, maybe limestone
it had worn smooth, maybe mud.

We’re in a small aluminum boat.
Welded seams a tactile evidence of construction.
It used to be green. A kid painted a name on it
“Green Star” with red paint. Some red remains.
Water, from this and that–spray of passage,
minnow bucket, dripping anchor and knotted rope–
settled in the downward, upward curve
smells algal, minnowish. The rim of the boat,
the gunnel, shines hot in the sun, below the water line
the metal is cool.

In the shallows a heron is fishing. A flock of yellow
like wild canaries. Jets leave contrails. Barges,
yoked in pairs–two, two, two, two, a football field afloat–
are pushed upstream or down and throw a wake wave
that lifts us, crumbs and the tablecloth, goes, slaps
the mudbank island top of a drowned hill. The buoy rocks,
the next up the creek rocks less.

We have lines in the water. We are fishing.

        “Father forgive us for what we must do.
        You forgive us, and we’ll forgive you.
        We’ll forgive eachother til we both turn blue
        then we’ll whistle and go fishing in heaven”
                        John Prine, Fish and Whistle

What can’t be forgotten
while faint vibrations communicate
        by way of steel, monofiliment, and braid
        by fingerprint and wrist, eye and lash
        from twenty feet down deep and murky
the fan of a fishtail

        will the leaves turn next October
        will the clock chime ten or stop at nine
        will the pain return
what can’t be forgotten, forgiven, fishing
oh, fortuna, whirling wheel
is too small.
Process Notes: “‘What Can’t Be Forgiven’ and ‘At the Mouth of Birdsong’ are part of a series in progress: Footnotes to a Photograph of My Father, Fishing.”

Barbara Young is from Nashville, Tennessee. She prefers fishing with minnows, not worms. She likes writing from prompts, and still mourns the website RWP which opened her eyes. Her poetry can be found at FredHerring.

AS BEFORE, Barbara Young

As Before
by Barbara Young

Another century, and it’s the same: dull and terrible,
like state spoons and ceramic figurines. Dull and terrible.

They sold us the cold war like a new Ford or Oldsmobile.
Bomb became joke; annihilation became dull and terrible.

Suburban streets run white with trademarked ornamental pears.
Come fall the trees burst with identical flames, dull and terrible.

We bought the ranch-style brick suburbs and, then, black SUVs.
Wrote sex as a suburban genre, made it lame, dull, and terrible.

School bathroom mirrors glazed with hairspray reflect their faces.
In slit glimpses girls on toilets cry into their hands dull and terrible.

A whitebread, lightbread girl becomes a doughy old woman.
A too-late-to-get it right old poet of a dame dull and terrible.


Spoiler: Life Continues Anyway
by Barbara Young

That the story goes on: Is that
what makes your hope
                   to dress in white wings
                   and sing hosannahs
                   until creation winks away?
Why ask for eternity without pain?
Isn’t the ending enough?

Beautiful. One crow against the low light sky
calls to the one that crossed the window before.
I look again, sunset. And then more will change.
The tip of the fig tree has begun to glow yellow.

Fall is late this year and not a symbol.

ONTOLOGY, Barbara Young

by Barbara Young

This is my house, this box on paper painted
a touch of coffee in cream. With thick black,
slapdash strokes, it has windows on its sides. Its front–
another window, and a door (to which we shall return).
The back was to be clean but, well, I painted a garden on the wall. Daisies,
mostly, and asters and zinnias (not good at peony, larkspur,
love-in-a-mist complications, suggest them with splats).
Larger than any flower, a bee, black paint and yellow.
So. House, garden, windows. A door that doesn’t open.

Yet: it is a door.
Once, I went to Home Depot and bought
a hollowcore door. I placed it across two 2-drawer file cabinets,
and it was a desk. If I should cut along the lines
of my paper home’s door, remove the rectangle,
leave it leaning, maybe against a flower,
and a gust sends it
fluttering and sliding along sidewalk and street;
leaves it to lie face-down in the intersection. Cars,
the UPS truck, couples with strollers roll over it, making patterns.
Pebbles dimple the paper. Is it a door?

Meanwhile. Empty space remains,
beside the painted window.
Go into the box by way of it,
it is a portal, passage, doorway: door.
I can’t lock the wolf out or my painted cat, in.
It has no hinges and no knob, can’t
be placed across two files and called a desk. And yet.

Barbara Young is aging, without grace, in Tennessee. The fat girl who wrote poetry in highschool gave that up in her 20s, thinking poets were supposed to have something to say. Took forty years to accept that as was wrong. She is fairly stubborn.

Barbara blogs at Rough Words.