Rusty Barnes

My discovery moment happened in my senior year of high school when writing satire about my classmates in terza rima seemed much more fun than work. I’ve never looked back since. Though I write a great deal of fiction, my heart is solidly with poetry.

Recent publications in GUD, Muzzle, MiPoesias ,Metazen, A Minor.


The Appassionata of Spring

Spring weather came. Rain pocked into
the dust like tiny explosions of clarity.

Just after the rain a single bee
returned agitated and cumbersome

from its far-off pollen gathering.
You and I have met here at the abandoned

house, under the bushy lilac, every
afternoon for a week, shaking off the buzz,

the ordure of growing things—the gnats
in our faces. Every time we come together

and wetly separate you stretch over our heads
and adorn a lilac branch with condoms

of varying colors. Someday if we do not
stop this entire bush will be an alien thing

to be gazed at from the distance of our lives,
a thing to be wondered at by landscapers

or boys who mow our lawn and trim
our hedge. Who would do such a thing

and why, as if the reasons we act can
at all be tied to things like logic? We can

only inarticulate ourselves by means
of the body: that slow thump of cells

and hormones co-creating themselves
in rain (like movies), in the sharp dab

of purple flowers divesting themselves
from their maker to adorn our faces

for the brief time we will spend here loving
before we become stone and ether,

before we return from where we came
so many years ago: purple blooms bursting

from our eyes—beautiful lesions—and the way
we are marked by love and returned to water,

and how that water surpasses all understanding
and flows in directions we cannot see, toward home.

*

Prayer to Lilith


Iron in the sea air tonight tastes of formeldahyde:
preserve for us this cadaverous thing we call love.

I write you from Loreto Bay where I work
on houses I’ll never live in, pink adobe and slate

sidewalks shine like greasy skin but out of town
along the rocky coast is a fishmonger named

Jesus who saved a dorado for us. I watched you
skim the salt from it with your brown fingers

and a thin-bladed knife as you parted the fish
from its skin. Tie me down.  Flay me sore

so that I can forget the trip in the steaming car,
your white blouse translucid with sweat, the water

bottle you tipped my way stained pink with lipstick.
Along the way you feared carjacking, breakdown,

running out of cocaine in our fifteenth hour,
but never what you should have feared: that

it would all go up, poison from our exhaust added
to the skein of smog to the north and beyond.

Romance you wanted and romance you got. Candles
guttering on the bathtub’s side and jets in full

foam and hanging over me still in your gown
as you drowned yourself in your good clothes.

I mean it: take your knife and sliver me open
at the X; wind my guts around your giving hand;

spend that extra weeping time searching for my
heart among the red blooms in my stomach.

It ought to be felt differently than the getting
and spending of the body’s wage we waste

in thinking any of it’s important. Wherever you
are, ride the wind and come to me quick.

I’ll be waiting on the only solid rock I can find,
o storm demon and bright bird of night

and salvation come to me. Come to me.

*

The Blessings of Fall Sunlight after a Journey


Bless the beasts, our children, the fry of fish
you pointed out to me in the crick that day,

raw fingerlings young as the world cupped
in a palm of silty water and swallowed whole

on a lazy dare. But you drew a fire from your-
self then and smoked my words like a fat ham

brought in for a holiday dinner, all salty pink
meat fit for eating  only after cutting meat

from rot and soaking in a long bath. I ate
my words gladly as you fed them to me, shrink-

ing in anticipation as the saliva came hard
to my swallow and you laughed blue

in the midnight haze of clean-up. We
scrubbed the pots free of what we’d

said. Nothing means no-thing anymore.
The eternal truth: what we have left to us

are the blessings we give one another
in the early morning silent as hunting

dogs when they couple after a chase.
Fuck logic. Lower your thighs onto mine.

All the blessings all the words I want
from you right now are hidden inside

your belly where I can bring them out,
breathe life into them with my lips and tongue.

Bless the scent of your wood-fire. Bless the words
which bring us together in the end. Bless

the last time I saw you. Now turn around. Breathe
once, deeply now. I’m knocking on your front door.

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a typo that became a literary publication

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