Five Poems
Melissa Barrett

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.