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Barbara Daniels

Men Walking

Two men walk out in all weathers, 

today with stocking caps pulled low. 

All fiction, perhaps, my sense of them 

as a couple, the way they’ve slowed, 

waiting now for each other. Maybe 

they’re bored or dismayed. 

But I think they have plenty 

to talk about, basketball, music, 

juncos kicking for seeds 

in the browned grass. Wind combs 

bare branches, day folding, 

unfolding. The men are like music, 

one theme for piano, another 

for orchestra, minor key answered 

by something more rambling. 

I read it as pleasure, their turning 

together. Grief for me 

is something to swim through, 

salt in cold water. It helps to think 

of men speaking, not speaking, 

walking from streetlight to streetlight.

The Great Eye

Men in oilfields wear jeans 

and boots red-dusted by labor. 

People are scrubbing a foyer floor. 

Water bearer, linguist, banker—all

work. A woman paints a great eye 

on the side of a rowboat. 

Someone cuts through winter-torn 

brush. Men lean on their spades, 

breathing spores blown in 

from Africa. A woman smiles. 

She’s spent her life singing. 

Is Adam still naming, sifting 

through sand, catching a moth 

on the wing? Orion holds 

a starry sword and rotates 

slowly over the beach grass. Ash 

of the dead gets thrown onto 

the waters—Cape May to Lewes.

Flowers drop where the ashes swirl. 

All night, lights glow in the atmosphere. 

A guard steadies himself 

under the slice-of-orange moon. 

In the morning, surveyors shake out 

their fluorescent green vests. 

Women driving gravel trucks 

stir mists of fine particles, bits 

of sand, dust of the universe shining. 

How To Listen

Birds sing for many reasons, 

not what you think, not 

just to find a mate. 

A catbird chants remembered 

songs, repeats, distorts, 

anxious, restless. 

You can’t shut the heart. 

That murmur is blood slipping 

through. A piano tuner clangs 

his A440 tuning fork and 

tightens a wire. Those people 

you see with too small shoes 

and aching teeth? They’ll feel 

better when Duke Ellington 

lifts an elegant finger, 

Billy Strayhorn steps 

to the piano, and 

music washes every ear. 

Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared 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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