Deadly Sin #8

I confront the White Bull of the page – Earnest Hemingway

My cherry blood thuds against good judgment.
Recollection of that begrudged learned lesson
bouncing toward intuition. No reason or verse
to choose either traveled road – wind low, the season right.

Garland of tolerable routines, inside a dream of what might
have been when an alternative was clear, and clean.
I have confronted it, rhetoric from id’s counsel – whispering
clever truth, nimble within my knocks and knacks.

Midnight fits and fidgets gnaw down words,
and settle nothing; though I thwart the slang
and outlive vernacular, the heroic stains matter.
There are gilded options that skirt my habits.

There are second natures that I outlast
for the instant when no reaction rings wrong.
Cathartic and comfy, I push color onto a bleached canvass.
Release myself into a cauldron of voices.

The white bull’s pale stare now flush with choices.

Net Worth

Tracks and tannins begin the argument:
something did happen here.
Wails to stay relevant.
Birds climb from urban gloom,
pump against mortality and pinions.

Sycophants emerge from castles
trimmed with eerie parapets. Pigeons skitter.
Sidewalks of faces chase sweetbread and wine
with good sons and daughters mingling
unlike a photo: colorized,

sepia, or flushed with light.
Accounts should stay pure,
nothing taken to heart. Nothing infused.
Only newspapers and wrappers.
Busses heave and chant stilted epistles

along the ridge, toward brimming neighborhoods
where another wallowed day will be notched.
by souls who stumble on vows. Accounts
never preoccupied with clarity, abstaining
from conclusions. Chandeliers are its depravity.

The waning weep, illuminated by lampposts,
naked at bay windows. Tonight’s bright moon
smaller than remembered, like a divine sea.
Strife as punctuation. Pleas and prayers.
New money steaming just ahead.


Monarch’s threshold.
Cocoon to pupa, now imago.
Wings flurry to migration’s call.
Wither curls seeds.

Stark day gives way to sunshower.
Thunder crushes rainbow –
unholy swipe strips its halo.
Dilutes glory. Shadows aureole.

Meadow parch erased.
Thin glimmer mists the trees.
Uncertain sanctuary refreshed.
Forest laments, more sky than bark.

Sundown deepens caves,
diffuses crevice and stream.
Dusk transitions breeze and blend.
No horizon. No verticals.

Dark unisons coalesce. Liminal flight,
orange and black, flutter south.
Moonbeams. Sublime stars
above peaks. Migrations. Dissolve.

Sweet Tooth

A good southern boy, I stood straight.
Learned silence. Completed elementary
school lessons in marbled notebooks.
Respected elders,
was polite to neighbors.
My Mom romanced me to dreamland
by the song of Uncle Remus.
I giggled myself to sleep
at mischief of Brer Rabbit
and Gray Fox.
By daylight,
I was treated with chocolate candy,
stiff pink gum, 6 oz. cola drinks.
My favorite delight came
in a white cardboard box:
Tar Babies,
bought from the white clapboard
corner store on 1st and Church Streets.
The dark brown figures had
arms and legs
folded against the body.
A wicked problem:
first I would bite
off the head. Never notice molded ears
or shucking smile.
Sweetness gnashing
between my teeth,
juice curdling
under my tongue.
This dark caramel
cultivated cavities,
each a to-be-ignored pain
activated by the candy’s molasses.
every morning, I stare into molar amalgams:
silver overlays enameling excavated decay.
Also gaps where teeth too-far-gone for repair
became simple extractions, unlike other regrets
and fissures begotten with subversive rewards.

Southern Exodus

Six decades to recognize their systems, and trysts of hate.
Poisoned fruit trees and dark-road abattoirs.
To pursue the marvelous path, I must break down
doors of my fathers’ forced-heritage. Break open
rusted gates, hung off fluted posts lynched
on devious hinges.
I tried to roll with the foul,
wink away the profane, walk it all off, but now
I decipher their language, and push back to suffer
as the few suffer. Plead pardon for past crimes.

The good shout has slept beneath my timid tongue.
Each must condone new stance with fawn-eyed freedom,
overcome the meager, and the crouch. Accept red-blooded
blue lights at the corner. Intercept dissention with justice.
Accept tainted condolences.
Both hands belong to the body.
I willingly sacrifice the finger to spare my hand. Accept
an ugly self, but still able to distinguish the beautiful:
loosen the grip, and surrender the fist.
Eye blessing eye.

My departure puts rusty cans and empty boxes in storage.
Fear whispers it cannot part with them. I will leave
the bookshelf empty. Straighten the catty-cornered and askew.
Stand a new ladder against the cross, ascend to the rose’s heart.
Thou shall not solely rely on divine deliverance –
rejoice in healing the self.
I will strap my epistle
to the Dove’s foot to inform distant counties. Or cork
my polemic in a bottle and toss it into lowest tide’s
white-capped fury.

                            Yes, my prayer may remain unread.  

Or return in the smooth hand of a savior, a new voice –
in persona of a sailor, or pirate, or another
thirsty fisherman,
bearing treasure, sharing fresh fruit.
We will sing a song together of Land Ho! A tune
deadened ears ignore. Drink from a fresh spirit,
toast the holy charm and rapture on joy’s ocean
where I swim into daybreak’s diversity, and know . . .
I want this.

Sam Barbee poems have appeared Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Georgia Journal, Kakalak, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, Sky Island Journal, Courtland Review and The New Verse News. His second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch”; and is a Pushcart nominee.