Fridays: Return to Sexual Purity
says the sign at the church I used to pass
three times a week on the way to the gym.
Yeah, no, people say now, agree
and disagree in one breath. Spring
still comes if they watch for it,
ghost-white dogwood, gold forsythia,
glory, glory, the redbud, pink cherry,
coat abandoned in a closet, scarf
fallen to the road-salted floor.
I step into spring like a blossoming
bindweed, a weed, yes, arrogant,
seeking. Does everyone have sexual
wounds? Men call bindweed
creeping Jenny. Morning glory,
some women say. Late at night
churches are quiet, doors locked,
pews shined like satin, dust embedded
in carpets, blue security light
like a star. A memory cuts. It’s a blade.
Another blooms like forgiveness.
In front of the church, a bus eases out.
Stars form the old constellations.
Sweet water flows in the ditch.
I don’t like the word forb. Or legumes.
Who could eat them? I prefer jellybeans,
jelly weeping sweetness, beans sturdy
and plain. I like words everyone says:
tree, dog, milk, hello—a child’s garden
of basics I signed on to for life.
I lived in a world of chemistry sets,
vinyl, Clue. Now it’s a sack race.
I’m hobbled, slowed by a gunny sack
as I hop toward the finish line
past the corner where swings lift
and fall. I’m lonesome for what
used to be trouble: cholesterol a little
high, reading glasses, the need
to get out and walk. I wish I could
flip back pages to the time when all
the people I loved were alive. They
drove me crazy—the bad advice and
weird bits of food stuck in their teeth
as they told and retold pointless stories.
We used to get wonderful apple butter.
Now I can’t find it. It was so sweet.
Put your ear here, here your warm
mouth. I found you without the aid
of an instrument except that I built
a diving board, then jumped
toward your willing lips,
your hands. Your hazel eyes.
I’m a number on a black clock
but with an animal’s exquisite
selfishness. You’re an augur
watching flights of veering
blackbirds, portents in overgrown
gardens and broken trees.
A song loops back to us—penny whistle,
headlong dance. Waves spool in
through driving rain. My heart’s a beet
leaking red down your chest and arms.
Where I touch you, you stain. Give me
your hand. Let’s climb to the stabbing stars.
Barbara Daniels’ Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Her poetry has appeared in Qwerty, Image Journal, and Rogue Agent. She received four fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.