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Alex Barr

Nutcracker How could T.J.Maxx sell you for the price of two pints of lager? Someone in Eastern Europe stuck on all your sequins painted your black mustache carved your golden crown the domed silver top of your timekeeping mace made your moving jaw to bite down hard on the stuff I’m sending you: Crunch it all, crunch it to free me from blame. Swallow, swallow into your wooden wame: the abandoned greenhouse the fruit now someone else’s; the scent of summer meadows; the show not seen on Broadway; the show the critics killed; the show that fouled a friendship; the writings in the style of Reverend Casaubon and William McGonagall; the kiss I should have given Fräulein Müller; the kiss I didn’t give Jennifer Ann; my anger with Angharad; the cruel scorn I used to break up with Jane; the STD I got from Monserrat; my letter to Leonie when drunk–– the porrones I didn’t get for Don from Mexico; my mockery of John E.; my useless temperament for flying; my cowardice when young Sean was killed; the house I built and hardly lived in; the road I should have taken; the unformed soul of the child I should have had; the walks abandoned; the phone call I forgot because of my impatience the day Maisie died; my torpor over floods, and hurricanes, and fires; take all these as your mace with its beat keeps time, time, time in an unrelenting rhyme and crunch them, crunch, to free me from shame swallow them, swallow into your wooden wame.

Not You

I’m sitting in Drive & Shine


They’re valeting our car.

While I wait I think

of the clothes you left on the bathroom floor. Your shell,

your carapace. Not you, but redolent:

the jumper from the Swedish list

with its pattern of stylized daisies, pink on a buff and sable background,

the corduroy plum-shade trousers with streaks

of raku clay where you wiped your hands,

cream knickers, yellow T-shirt,

the black socks you say I borrow by mistake.

You left this heap so you could come to bed

without disturbing me when I was sleeping.

Yes, one of us has always gone

ahead, and here in Drive & Shine I wonder

which of us will find a pile of clothing one day soon with no body left to fill them.

Who will have gone ahead into the world of light?

Or dark. Or dark.

And here in the bardo waiting-room I murmur,

“My love, O my love, we must meet again,

shining, valeted.” Beyond the doorway

an enigmatic frame of girders

partly painted orange, with a rack

of unguents and volatiles for cars

and grubby hoses casually draped

has beauty.


Alex Barr’s recent poetry is in Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Quagmire Magazine, Poetry Review, The MacGuffin, Scintilla, The Dark Horse, Orbis,, and His poetry collections are Letting in the Carnival from Peterloo, Henry’s Bridge from Starborn, and Bedding Plants For My Father from Cerasus. He lives in West Wales, where he organizes poetry workshops and readings.


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