Catherine Barnett Poems

Hit Title Date Added
1.
Chorus

So who mothers the mothers
who tend the hallways of mothers,
the spill of mothers, the smell of mothers,
...

2.
Acts of Mind

What's funny about this place
is us regulars coming in with our different
accoutrements, mine usually the little void
of space I call honey, days
...

3.
Family Reunion

My father scolded us all for refusing his liquor.
He kept buying tequila, and steak for the grill,
until finally we joined him, making margaritas,
cutting the fat off the bone.

When he saw how we drank, my sister
shredding the black labels into her glass
while his remaining grandchildren
dragged their thin bunk bed mattresses

first out to the lawn to play
then farther up the field to sleep next to her,
I think it was then he changed,
something in him died. He's gentler now,

quiet, losing weight though every night
he eats the same ice cream he always ate
only now he's not drinking,
he doesn't fall asleep with the spoon in his hand,

he waits for my mother to come lie down with him.
...

4.
Epistemology

Mostly I'd like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle,
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate,
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing.
They don't use words, but they can be said to love.
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it's called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare,
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I'm alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.
...

5.
O Esperanza!

Turns out my inner clown is full of hope.
She wants a gavel.
She wants to stencil her name on a wooden gavel:
Esperanza's Gavel.
Clowns are clichés and they aren't afraid of clichés.
Mine just sleeps when she's tired.
But she can't shake the hopes.
She's got a bad case of it, something congenital perhaps.
Maybe it was sexually transmitted,
something to do with oxytocin or contractions or nipple stimulation,
maybe that's it, a little goes a long way.
Hope is also the name of a bakery in Queens.
And there's a lake in Ohio called Hope Lake where you can get nachos.
I'm so stuffed with it the comedians in the Cellar never call on me,
even when I'm sitting right there in the front row with a dumb look of hope on my face.
Look at these books: hope.
Look at this face: hope.
When I was young I studied with Richard Rorty, that was lucky,
I stared out the window and couldn't understand a word he said,
he drew a long flat line after the C he gave me,
the class was called metaphysics and epistemology,
that's eleven syllables, that's
hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope.
Just before he died, Rorty said his sense of the holy was bound up with the hope
that some day our remote descendants will live in a global civilization
in which love is pretty much the only law.
...

6.
The August Preoccupations

So this morning I made a list

of obsessions and you were on it.

And waiting, and forgiveness, and five-dollar bills,

and despots, telescopes, anonymity, beauty,

silent comedy, and waiting.

I could forswear all these things

and just crawl back into the bed

you and I once slept in.

What would happen then?

Play any film backwards and it's elegy.

Play it fast-forward it's a gas.

I try not to get attached.

But Lincoln!

I see stars when I look at him.
...

7.
Sojourn

My son took a picture of me
jumping the cemetery wall. Do it again,
he said, as if I'd got out too fast.
Pretend you're really climbing.

In the retake my lazy eye is half shut,
and the other is smiling or crying.
...

8.
Providence

This evening I shared a cab with a priest
who said it was a fine day to ride cross town

with a writer. But I can't
finish the play I said,

it's full of snow.
The jaywalkers

walked slowly, a cigarette warmed
someone's hand.

Some of the best sermons
don't have endings, he said

while the tires rotated unceasingly
beneath us.

All over town people were waiting
and doubleparked and

making love and waiting.
The temperature dropped

until the shiverers zipped their jackets
and all manner of things started up again.
...

9.
Textbook & Absence (Anatomy)

At school he studies the human body:
aorta, valve, muscle, vein.
At home he redesigns it
out of cardboard and twine
until it looks like a coat he might hang
on a hook with other missing coats.
...

10.
Sweet Double, Talk-Talk [iv.]

iv.

I know agape means both dumbly
open and love not the kind of love
that climbed the stairs to you.
...