Rusty Barnes is a poet, writer and editor in Revere MA. He grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians, where he developed a taste for the Romantics, which led him everywhere else eventually. He coedits Live Nude Poems with his wife, the poet Heather Sullivan. You can find him on Twitter @rustybarnes23.
1979 TRIP TO CHERRY FLATS: A DREAM
We will not stop to piss, what's your twenty,
my brother-in-law says over the CB,
cutting past the traffic barricade,
and somebody up ahead says stop,
Smokey on the main drag like
the movie. I am riding bitch
in his Super Bee struggling
to stay level with no seatbelt.
I am 10 and scared shitless,
as I know the tires are bald
because we are all piss-poor,
and the exhaust is loud as
the wheels spit gravel down
the dirt road and I pray to a God
I don't know yet that I survive
to get back to my GI Joe dolls.
We slalom around a tight curve,
my head bangs against my sister's
shoulder. The brakes lock. I decide
in that moment If I live to see
the end of this shit-assed day,
I'm going to become a minister.
The sky doesn't matter, nor the flash we see
skittering across it like a knock-kneed roan.
What matters is the cute dress you're wearing,
my hand high on your hard little hip
and the freshet of freckles across your face,
the prevailing sense of summer at night,
how the billion stars wink out and die
and re-bear themselves like the tiny
fissuring atoms they are
and how we sit here, old of the universe,
staring up and making wishes and talking
like adults one to the other on the back
deck except you are ten and I am not
and these tiny moments will soon be gone
whether I can bear thought or not,
and that will have to be OK. I will
have to be OK. The world remains.
And I hold your slippery hand
as you and your youth rush away
to join the universe.
IN MY FATHER'S LABYRINTH
In the labyrinth of the elders
called Hall of the Dead, where the deckled
skins of raccoons stretched
on their racks for drying
and the ink-black barrel of oiled
dye lay roiling, two muskrat
skins stood chastened against their
cooling boards, the stink
of wet skin and the curse of father tongue
held over every thing like a pall
over a lich-yard,
such was my father's camp to me,
where he would boil traps and knife
the grimy flesh from the fur for sale to men who
stank of rubber and cheese
with the bones of nameless animals
under their hatbands.
I spoke here in doleful tones, dirt under
my nails and sweat in my pits
learned how to huh and swagger my way
how to hock a loogie six feet away
and never reveal how it bruised my lips
on those rare occasions my father kissed me.
Copyright © 2021 Rusty Barnes.
JESUS IN THE GHOST ROOM
ON BROAD SOUND