Night Poem XVI

Who hurt you, night?
Who was it that gave you your melancholic gait?
The suffering of the void became too much for you, didn’t it?
And so you came down here and entered me,
and all the others like me.
Then you could bear the weight of your own heart again.

Now the night dwells in me
like a duke alone in his chateau.
And he wanders from room to room,
speaking gruffly to himself,
and stands at windows,
and turns away with an involuntary smile.

And he fills me with the primordial memories
of ruined love,
of all the love that came and went long before me,
the love that became the night’s blue hurt.
Night, my tenant,
I listen to your afflictions with an ear pressed inward,
and what I translate becomes my strength.

A Sudden Sky

There is a point in the city
where I take a bend in the road
and suddenly emerge to sky.
There, the city slopes down, away from me,
to dip its morning feet in the sea below.
And it is all the more surprising,
because, until that bend,
I have walked huddled amongst the smoking hills,
the close, coughing buildings
of the human hive.
To arrive there, out of a tunnel of sleep,
and see that sky, endless, untethered,
it is as if someone had poked a hole in the suffocating day.
And I breathe, or it feels as though, at last I do,
or it feels like my lungs expand
with those slowly trotting clouds,
while the tendrils, the discord,
the discarded cans and loves of this city loosen from me.
And I realize, how I was never a single thing,
a voice against another voice,
or a blue flame lighting my own dreams.
I realize under that blueness
which surpasses every animal thing,
that there are birds of sleep, who without our asking,
weave such skies behind our closed skin.

The Insects


Without a heart, they cannot break as we do.
And without dreams, they love the way that soil loves,
lacking enemies.
They are the warmth of movement in our decay.
But we are burdened by a thought and an image
that expires in a sad flame.
We are what they diligently tear and scatter
in an undergrowth of dead years,
our years,
awaiting the mouths of their relentless love.


I gather about me a moss of need,
sentiment, dream and craving.
Like the rock of afflicted mollusks,
I am a burden of sea, a salt trailed by wounds.
The clay of accumulated sorrow spoils my form.
But they are nature’s perfected coil,
the smooth and frightening form of life without remorse.
Everything else is unrequired.


I do not want a bone of song.
I no longer desire a midday loaded with light.
Beneath a country of moist leaves,
I seek transformation, like you,
to outlive the skeleton of my death,
to be a raw and glistening nerve under the moon.


On a bitter leaf, I struggled from
a chrysalis of memory.
Everywhere, wings were blooming.

Silberbauer Comes for Anne

After all the necessary investigations,
Interrogations, stamps on the
Relevant memorandum,
He followed the scent,

A man well trained in the art
Of ferreting out survivors,
Down the cobbled and crumbling streets
Of war-torn Amsterdam.

And he found that family,
Huddled in their tight annex,
Eking out life on the
Hemorrhaging trickle of goodwill,

Still left in the dry humps of nations,
And he was the spanner poised over the faucet.

And this was how they met death’s bureau,
Buttoned down, good-natured fellow.
Sure he tossed things around,
Hunting for clues,
Or just following standard procedure,

Lit a cigarette, flipped out his notebook
While the family were escorted away,
While he remarked to the man of the house,
My your daughter is pretty isn’t she.

And that was the long and the short of it.
He sent the pretty one off
To the emaciated pit of his awful century,
To starve on a bunk, covered in scabies.

But he’d raised the alarm,
He’d done a fine day’s work,
filed them away, a report in a cabinet,
A stamp in the relevant corner.
Soon after the war he was employed

In intelligence,
a hunter of radicals against the authorities,
A smart shirt and a tie
And a clean shaven face.

And he read that small book,
in his hours of leisure,
In which she’d gone deep
Inside her own annex
And found the horizons of herself,
In the center of a noose.

And he was the noose,
And her diary ended where he’d picked it up
And let it fall carelessly to the floor,
For it contained nothing of importance to the state.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

Out by myself

Today I walked with my

molten loneliness,

wretchedly burning

in my loin,

smoldering under my heel.

I delighted in the company

of bright-faced cashiers,

the pleasantry and

the money exchanged.

I enjoyed aimless perambulations

under the thin skin of the sky,

and the burning mad flames

of our expiring sun.

And I fell for the girl who rode by,

her eyes cast down,

continuously caught

and dragged under her spokes,

and the way she

laughed anyway.

My triumphant loneliness

loved the smooth shoulders of women

who turned away from me

to get on with their lives,

to open car doors,

to wipe away the snot of a child,

to serve the next in line.

And when I returned home

my woman came to me

and subdued my raging solitude,

and bid that panther return to it’s corner

in my soul,

with the other defeated animals,

so that we might

enjoy this evening,

the frivolity of two souls

abandoned to this millennium,

off to watch a movie.


Sitting alone in this café,

I find unexpected warmth

in the company of

so many strangers.

I recognize these primal embers,

that still emanate from us,

come from the ancient prototype,

and even now we

seek to huddle in packs

in sheltering caves.

Are we not all like a


holding out a coat for the other,

or saving a seat

for friends who

come in from the cold?

Warm seats, warm hearts,

that speak no evil,

nor bear any grudges here,

talk in respectful tones

amidst the reassuring

scent of coffee and

human skin.

It may be that

cities shatter elsewhere,

raging mountains

spew their spleens on

innocent villagers,

and ignominious people

flick lethal switches,

even as joy puckers

the squinting faces of

girls in

innocuous cafes.

But let’s just

lean into this plush embrace

of living kindness,

this gentle, guiltless clatter,

shuffling of chairs

and these pleasures we take

mocking the

infinite,  stony universe.

For it clamors at the border,

and disdains the thought

that there is any such thing

as refuge.