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Jill Barrie

Gephyrophobia

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

 

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                              

in paradise.


 

Baby

 

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.





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