About the Author

Three Poems

Rusty Barnes


Nixes Mate Books


Digging a ditch in my dreams,
fucking hard as brick biceps,

an attitude to match in the flare
of your cigarette. Someone is always

smoking in my dreams and always
it is you, father, shovel in your hand

as you run a blade into the muck
of our sewage system in 1976. I am

the boy in my own dreams now
not yours and yet I struggle with

this how your death prompted
a crisis I can only respond to

without words because they don't
mean much after all and what I

mean to say is that I love you
you old bastard and the drunk

hug you gave me when I was six
mirrored the last one you gave me

as we stood next to your car on
the way to the VA that day only

I feel a little sheepish now sitting
here in my living room trying to

string it all together with a line of
letters. I want something, want

it to mean more than it does but
you're a dead man and I am drunk

on words and the gall of trying
to say something profound.


Two appaloosas, haunts almost, sending flares
through the high buck of their tails and legs, lean muscle
tipping down almost-fallen trees. They snort white
as glue, extend their legs farther than their lives,
whicker away at the humans being around them, ghosts
no horse can bear.


Paris in 1924, a coal-lit brazier warming his hands,
Hemingway wrote and rubbed his palms together

in the time-honored motion of cold people through
the ages. I can see my old man rubbing his fingers

over a hot Thermos of coffee waiting for deer up
on the hill behind Dolly Golden's road,

my brother and I thumping down the ridge
driving deer toward him, the job of the young

in the provinces of the old, my brother with his
thirty aught six and me with a 12-gauge,

loaded with slugs and pursuing a deer I could
never bring myself to shoot. In my mind I can

more easily imagine turning the gun on
myself now, lodging the barrel against my fore-

head and pressing the trigger into oblivion but
two of my kids sleep upstairs and the eldest sits

beside me lost in her own world and like Hem
on that windy July day in Ketchum Idaho,

I am on the edge of a momentous decision.

Copyright © 2019 Rusty Barnes.



Shotgun Honey

Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia and now lives in Massachusetts. He's published work in many journals, and his latest books are the crime novel The Last Danger and the poetry collection Jesus in the Ghost Room.