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Barbara Daniels

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.

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