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Five Poems
Undone by Arches of Fire

The curtain you noticed trembling, the whole 

soft front of it 
in purls, tasseled with rope and yearning 

behind it, the contralto

her lips like welts

Clouds creak from a knife-colored wire
The star haze ladled out 

in a milky swill—even the moss 
embossed with glitter 

(I said the moss

Blind octaves splay up 
from the pit, all ash and dross by nine 

but now the backdrop is rippled 
wet as lungs

Hoffman hung in lace

with heart both yes & no

The flames trick up his collar, smear
that set dismantled grey

It’s not the muse that ignites him now

His loins ground into clay

Carbide Stylus

Thumbed down to the rind, the tanner names a broken saddle and old jute scrap, Loud. 
Little ball 

As turnstile. Little gob, or flash of runnels, swamping the leather. Like magnet the smell, 
Like a brood 

Of kelpy rocks. So wires could now be easily drawn, if thought of. Or a mouse’s tail. 
Lines lay down

Like silhouette, obedient to gravity and soon dispensable. Meaning: able to be thrown
Into a pit.

Old pens assemble to form turrets or a banister running somewhere from our road to the 
Color of it. 

Pleasure at Krape Park (M’Conifer of the Glands)

Sky spattered neon
with the sun’s looping promise,
anarchy of branches
split the corners of the almost all
green, untold divinity.
worms ribbon up through the dirt,

pink tubes unbutton, pistils ululating—
and the plumb catkins, trampled over
wet boots, wet boots. 

Purpose to Save

Ringing like a gang of coyotes.

The wallpaper smudges, I 
don’t sleep. I marry the moon, 
a covenant
tacked to our darkness.

I never wanted the ocean.
I wanted home. And now calomel.
My teeth caramelize, my brain 
trips into my skull—

The news cracks into me, a tumid 
arm dragging. Grace 

turns over like a jar. 
And when 

I leave the house, the swamp 
stares back at me, gratified and full. 

The Second Body

        burglar of prurience, 
                tinkling white 

      Pearls loll 
at the bottom of a drawer, we count 
to see the width of what 

      broke them

                           I’ve seen 
the cistern year, the sly 
blink of adder and harness 
of front door—
                         Naked wood,

             (—the smudgesticks 
      waft, a poultice steadying

Windows ciphon words 
warm or fricative 
                                and osiers 
                     in aggregate

rose from the matchbox— 


I could have told you 
he’d never belong

Melissa Barrett is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and a Tin House writer’s scholarship. Her poems have have received honors from Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Sonora Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, and Narrative. She lives and teaches in Columbus, Ohio.