There you are,

a small face on the pillow,

my hand on your neck

over the swelling,

while your eyes crumple

and whimper,

and I say how

sometimes there’s a

lump under the skin before we get sick.

But you don’t speak

and your cheeks burn,

fighting off the invaders

of bodies and dreams.

Sometimes the miracle

of your being

intoxicates me

and I swoon in your mysteries

oblivious to passing years.

But in moments like this,

when you leave me alone

with your fevered soul,

I see with the clarity

of an old, debauched king,

bodies fail us,

even the young succumb

to their fevers.

I love you and cling

to your palms that still pulse

with delirious life,

but every night,

when we lie down recklessly

like this,

love flees with our sleep,

like dark leaves

shedding over

the wound of the world.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

Nineteen Fourteen

1914 was a gorgeous year.

God out did himself.

It was a summer fit for

ennui, revelry,

jaunts in motorcars

along the Cote d’Azur,

the Dover cliffs,

the Austrian Alps.

And the nights,

they were sprinkled

with the laden scent of lavender,

the sound of drunken songs

on the Unter den Linden.

1913 had been awful by comparison,

rained all summer,

and the people,

cooped up inside,

played quoits

or listened to the stiff phonograph

squeaking out Caruso.

But 1914 was splendid,

with balls and picnics

and plenty of love-making

that June and July.

And the fields of Flanders

bloomed with a million poppies,


like the revelers

who stumbled into them,


waking up to a hangover.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

Coming Home

The mountains won’t break their silence,

the coast and the sea

are neither an invitation nor a threat.

No fortress frowns on this land

of pale skies.

The land tells me nothing.

Ships with white sails

come to harangue the shores

and leave defeated.

If they stay, they huddle in the coves

of a land without myth.

The land tells me nothing.

Why has it strayed so far from the others,

to this grey and churning sea?

Why should it be an outpost,

hunched with its secrets?

The clouds that wander this far off course

are like exiles, heavy,

laden with the broken spoils

of their abandoned homeland.

Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

The day is like this

The clouds lean over the earth.

The shadows dance in the park.

The trees twist

with their arms out-stretched in the wind.

And I stumble,

woozy from all this

dizzying motion of a vagrant day.

I’m like this when I love you

and the world is like this,

reaching the distances

on tip-toe over the blocks of streets

to where you walk, unaware.

And your hair and your dress

billow up when it touches you,

caught like the ships

that set sail and return over the

leaping hills,

loosening ribbons of wind

over my impatient eyes.


Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow

The Least Savory Thing

It’s the least savory thing in us,

but it’s there,

like the bulge in the man’s side,

and every now and then,

we have to do something terrible

to assuage it.

In the centuries of the human midden

it recurs over and over,

a layer of ash

piled with more skeletons,

more steel than usual.

Bones of the folk in the market place,

who were roused by the cloaked men

speaking the fiery will of god.

Bones of the armed boys.

Bones of the mounted horses.

Battle axes plunged into heads;

brains and spent genitals

groping in the wet earth.

Bones of the women

who, on the morrow of the genocide,

went to the still tormented fields

to gather the rings and the teeth

of their dead men.

The ash of historical facts

piles up in books and universities

and at the end of stale bus tours,

and we sift through it,

still learning nothing,

still powerless to appease

the bulge in the side,

or the bones splitting in the

yawning fields,

groaning for satisfaction.



Copyright 2014 Ricky Barrow