Am I Time’s Fool?
Let me confess: the rosy lips I used to have left
me. Fierce tempests threaten me. It’s
not that I don’t ask the evening star
to guide my sad wandering. I step to
the crack of doom, the savage exploding
marriage of windstorm and trees. The bending hook
of hopelessness moves to encompass me. Is it
true, Love, that love is not always true, that
minds turn false like swift sand through an hourglass?
Admit you still live, write, love, despite
impediments snagging like cat briar.
Love is a pigment harvesting light. It
is your eyes, hands, knees, mouth, thighs,
not death, but oaks, persimmons, wisteria.
Jingle Rings Sestina
We’re Etruscans? Are we loving
couples who smile and clasp each other
as we lie down on narrow sarcophagi?
What marred me made me—silent
prayer, tambourines. Etruscan women
bared their breasts to ward off evil.
Every day I open the papers to study evil.
Etruscans were good at hydraulics and loving.
They covered tomb walls with frescos of women.
Newspapers show me a travesty, then another.
Etruscans were guarded by bells and silent
worship of gods that were animals. Sarcophagi
ate the dead. Do you know that sarcophagi
means flesh-eating stones? Is death evil?
Are flesh-eating stones? Etruscans silently
read fortunes in livers of sacrificed sheep, loving
for some, but judging by entrails, death for others.
My body shakes jingle rings, joins women
whose clothing gleams. They’re singing women
slapping tambourines, twirling, dancing. Sarcophagi
wait for them. My body hopes for some other
tomb site, perhaps a river or sunny hillside. Evil
floats out of newspapers onto the roadway. Loving
women shake ankle rings, stomp through the silence.
I am an Etruscan if it means keeping silent
while augurers pull entrails from animals. We women
watch the location of lightning. If the east, loving
comes to us. We will be partnered. On sarcophagi,
smiling couples lie down together where evil
can’t slice them. I turn away toward the other
worlds that form sixteen parts of the sky. Other
gods reign there. I shuffle cards, draw serenity, silence.
I’m building a ladder to climb above evil,
stripping beech branches strong as strong women.
When I clamber up I can’t see the sarcophagi.
Camellias blossom, their blooms sweet as love.
My body swings jingle rings, joins other women,
chooses the dance floor, not silent sarcophagi,
shakes my head no to evil, yes to laughter and love.
The Rose Ghazal
You sleep through nights like a child in your old backyard.
When you wake, day is already beating the dark back.
There was a girl in the schoolyard, Rose, Rose, Rose.
Clang of bars, lurch of the highest swing, the sharp fall back.
Someone is out in a neighbor’s yard pruning her roses.
Cloud, vigilant bird, singing water, all are called back.
Rose found a Zippo that burned her face when it flashed to life.
Parents belt children in now so they always ride safely in back.
The bee that bumps you flies on and won’t sting you.
You know if you want to go forward you must go back.
Get ready. Put on your bird mask, its quaking feathers.
What you lack and its hummed amen are on their way back.
When the chorus begins, gather yourself and rise, Barb.
Brace yourself. Hold on tight to your shining seatback.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in Lake Effect, Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.