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,
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.