Farmhouse Room + Say What You Will

Jennifer Barber

Farmhouse Room

A fly buzzes the window
that looks out on a line
of sugar maples in bright leaf.

Goats vocalize in the yard,
plaintive; caesura; insistent;
then the same again.

If my friend were alive,
would he tease me for taking time
in the country, as if my stay
could do the work of an elegy?

Or would he only be thinking of
erasing the years ahead?

The goats stop bleating as if
they too were listening
to his last dark thoughts.

The only sound is no sound.

Say What You Will

The trees are entering
the carmine and old gold of their leaves,

dropping an alphabet of twigs.
I don’t know how to crack the code.

Is it about wholeness? Brokenness?
Is it about my friend

who stepped from a ledge last week
rather than endure his blood disease?

Or does the alphabet spell
the consoling turn in a prophecy,

the worst already past,
the exiles finally traveling home?

I could live another twenty years
with no inkling, though I lean

against the trunk of the giant oak
till the leathery leaves cover my feet.

Jennifer Barber’s newest collection, The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, came out in 2022 from The Word Works and her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Ibbetson Street, and upstreet. Her previous books are Works on PaperGiven Away, and Rigging the Wind. She is the current poet laureate of Brookline and the co-editor, with Fred Marchant and Jessica Greenbaum, of the anthology Tree Lines: 21st Century American Poems (Grayson Books, 2022). The founding editor of the literary journal Salamander, she served as its editor-in-chief from 1992 to 2018.

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