In Memory of Patricia A. Casson
On the approach I’d note the slim
strands of steel that kept them afloat,
remember the Bay Bridge snapped
in half like a toy. Cars teetered
on the edge or dove onto the deck below.
One day, you’re driving to work,
sipping coffee, tapping the wheel,
the earth shifts and you’re left
dangling over an ocean.
Most people don’t think about this.
They have their own bridges to cross.
I remember, as a child,
our car broken down, we waited
in a lakeside tavern for two locals
with a pickup to put down their drinks.
My parents fought on about everything,
nothing. Afternoon… flickered into
evening. Then we were roaring
across the Batchellerville Bridge,
Father cursing our fate as we swung
like a pendulum at the end of a tow rope.
Mother never liked bridges.
Crossing the Thousand Islands Bridge
into Ontario, she fell like a ragdoll
to the floor of the car and stayed there.
I know bridges bring death.
The ghosts of suicides pace walkways
rethinking their last actions.
New York was where it started.
Piloting my father’s Legacy
across the Tappan Zee, poised
above the Hudson like an entrance to Oz,
I felt my apprehension grow, car
slow, till I was doing fifteen
in the middle lane. I couldn’t move
over, couldn’t speed up, trapped
in my head, in the car—like the woman
yesterday who left a pharmacy
after picking up a prescription.
She lost control, rolled her minivan
down an embankment into
a retention pond. She drowned.
Middle of the day, many people
around. I’ve been afraid of bridges.
Now I fear driving in town.
Birds ‘R Us
A raven wings by complaining
as if it had a belly ache,
a ‘pepla poses on a creosote bush,
what-sup, what-sup? what-sup?
It’s been months now since you died,
and I’ve come back to find
myself on a lone post in the desert.
On the ride from the airport,
I wrote you a poem,
now dissolved into vowels.
Gambel’s quail scurry up the wash,
forefeathers bobbing like divining rods.
A Gila woodpecker seeks cover
in an ocotillo. In the flats below,
the gas-powered heart of the city thrums.
I’ve so far to go to get there.
The saint that hangs from your neck—
mere brass. Better kiss the lips of a penny
than the face of an ass. Listen,
outside the giant pine squeals.
A stop sign has fallen to its knees
in laughter. Ashbirds scatter like a fire
you can’t put out, only delay.
Your saint is complacent.
He’ll do nothing
to save you. I have invited
black geese to settle
in the black lace trees
outside your window.
They will serve you
as I do, your devil
Her husband growls at Baby
who wants what he wants
just like Dad. The only thing
Baby doesn't want is purple
beets or to hear the awful NO!
Her husband wants a baby
who doesn't want or else
who smashes desire like a bug,
if her husband wants a baby
at all. Before Baby,
he could pacify himself,
grilled steak, widescreen TV,
getting laid in the morning.
Baby's mucked that all up.
He whines through dinner,
loses the remote control,
crows for Mom at dawn.
Her husband pines
for the day before Baby,
stomps about the house,
threatens to kick Baby
when Baby disobeys,
takes his hatred of life
to his baby-making wife.
After earning an MFA from Vermont College, Jill Barrie won first place in The Louisville Review Annual Poetry Contest. She has been a finalist in the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in New Virginia Review, Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, The North American Review and other publications. More recently, you can find her poems in Tar River Poetry, Italian Americana, and Flint Hills Review.