What Is Herringbone?
We’re a household of two people,
two robots. I run the robot that
vacuums and start the small one
dragging wet fabric across dirty
floors. I fell for you although
I could not understand you—
Anglo-Saxon recited with passion,
meaning withheld like a pitcher
hiding a ball till it’s too late to see it
spiraling. What is herringbone?
And broken twill? A man like you
must know the answers. You told me
the two-seamer quick as a fastball
(but breaking, sinking) turns
in the hand till the seams align,
hidden release, off-center spin.
I think you said Byrhtnoth’s
heart causes slaughter. Is love
carnage? Knowledge inhabits
the cells of your lips and your
fingers. I wanted calligraphy,
blue stars, cash in a pink satin
envelope. The robots lack ardor.
They clean with programmed
devotion, sloping out one way,
then another, making patterns
like the small bones of a fish.
The Book of Knowledge
Those times I almost died
brim with dread and shine
like bowls of light. I reach
for the Book of Knowledge—
illustrated buildings like ideal
people, anxious cogs of machines,
openwork leaves baring veins,
caterpillar safe in its hibernaculum,
dragonfly wings like transparent
sleeves. Flatworm—all gut and
crawl—hacked to bits, each piece
a new body that must relearn
the idea of I. Bellini Madonnas—
pensive young mothers slightly off
center, see the future—death,
undoing. Behind them roads
curl back into hills. Yellow
hawkweeds close at nightfall,
careful, withholding. Queen
Anne’s lace flings itself open,
seraphic under the moon.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Lake Effect, Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.