Editor’s note: Catherine Barnett is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Her first book of poems, “Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced,” was published in 2004 by Alice James Books. Her second poetry collection, “The Game of Boxes,” was just released by Graywolf Press. Barnett works as an independent editor and teaches at Barnard College, The New School, and New York University.
In the Cabinet of What’s Expired:
Salves, creams, dreams in their shiny metal tins:
the balm of yes
is now the balm of no—
But it’s a pretty silver hope,
and I still swallow it—
I let it wash down my throat,
down my desire vortex
to my smooth wild feet,
I let it wash my feet—
He still doesn’t believe in the soul
so when I say again
marvel at the visible, he looks away
and closes his eyes
until practicing what not to say
and how not to say it
I don’t tell him how his own eyes,
open or closed, bored, resigned,
consigned to his fate,
how even the vagrancies in their place
come to beauty there.
The clock doesn’t have an amygdala
so it doesn’t worry, it tells
its own quick trickle-down story
of now and now and now until
neither yesterday nor tomorrow
is where it should be.
You might as well stay a while
and kneel to Happiness
and its hymns and its cross.
Photo: Jacqueline Mia Foster