Mary Barnard

M
Mary Barnard
Crossroads
Rotting in the wet gray air
the railroad depot stands deserted under
still green trees. In the fields
cold begins an end.

There were other too-long-postponed departures.
They left, finally, because of well water
gone rank, the smell of fungus, the chill
of rain in chimneys.
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Encounter in Buffalo
The country lies flat, expressionless as the face of a stranger.
Not one hillock shelters a buried bone. The city:
a scene thin as a theater backdrop, where no doors open,
no streets extend beyond the view from the corner.

Only the railroad embankment is high, shaggy with grass.
Only the freight, knuckling a red sun under its wheels,
drags familiar box-car shapes down long perspectives
of childhood meals and all crossings at sunset.
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Fable of the Ant and the Word
Ink-black, but moving independently
across the black and white parquet of print,
the ant cancels the author out. The page,
translated to itself, bears hair-like legs
disturbing the fine hairs of its fiber.
These are the feet of summer, pillaging meaning,
destroying Alexandria. Sunlight is silence
laying waste all languages, until, thinly,
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Fawn
Out of a high meadow where flowers
bloom above cloud, come down;
pursue me with reasons for smiling without malice.

Bring mimic pride like that of the seedling fir,
surprise in the perfect leg-stems
and queries unstirred by recognition or fear
pooled in the deep eyes.

Come down by regions where rocks
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Height Is the Distance Down
What’s geography? What difference what mountain
it is? In the intimacy of this altitude
its discolored snowfields overhang half the world.

On a knife rim edge-up into whirlpools of sky,
feet are no anchor. Gravity sucks at the mind
spinning the blood-weighted body head downward.

The mountain that had become a known profile
on the day’s horizon is a gesture of earth
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Ondine
At supper time an ondine’s narrow feet
made dark tracks on the hearth.
Like the heart of a yellow fruit was the fire’s heat,
but they rubbed together quite blue with the cold.
The sandy hem of her skirt dripped on the floor.
She sat there with a silvered cedar knot
for a low stool; and I sat opposite,
my lips and eyelids hot
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Playroom
Wheel of sorrow, centerless.
Voices, sad without cause,
slope upward, expiring on grave summits.
Mournfulness of muddy playgrounds,
raw smell of rubbers and wrapped lunches
when little girls stand in a circle singing
of windows and of lovers.

Hearing them, no one could tell
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Remarks on Poetry and the Physical World
After reading Ash Wednesday
she looked once at the baked beans
and fled. Luncheonless, poor girl,
she observed a kind of poetic Lent—
and I had thought I liked poetry
better than she did.

I do. But to me its most endearing
quality is its unsuitableness;
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Shoreline
The seas has made a wall for its defence
of falling water. Those whose impertinence
leads them to its moving ledges
it rejects. Those who surrender
it will with the next wave drag under.

Sand is the beginning and the end
of our dominion.

The way to the dunes is easy.
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