you are in the diode archives v6n3



His Eyelashes Are Not Tarantulas

But somehow I’ve been bitten, stung, and I want to tell this guy, star
                        pitcher on the university team—bare
            arms so muscular I’m amazed
any straight woman around this table can utter a word—I’d like to shred
                        his printout and toss the pieces into
            the nearest recycle bin. His poem
begins with a guy who’s salivating for a “she” who’s lolling her curves
                        on his kitchen counter, but when the “I”
            licks and nibbles "her" moist flesh,
we learn “she” is only an apple. How do I count the ways I could sneer
                        his poem’s fouled out? The students
            are chuckling, “great humor,” Adrian’s
saying, but I’m struggling to calm down, behave like the mature workshop
                        leader I’m supposed to be while my mind
            races like a runner stealing
third. I’m reeled back fifty-some years to my first steady boyfriend,
                        the one I even thought about marrying,
            record-breaking pitcher for
our high school team, black lashes, eyes dark as Medjool dates. This kid
                        looks just like that boy. Something very sexy
            about a pitcher—I’d sit behind
home plate—the ball coming right at me after the long wind up, intense
                        crouch over the mound. He made it
            to the majors, the Braves, and once
I saw him pitch against Willie McCovey. I’d love to watch my student
                        in action. I saw the old boyfriend last
            summer, after all these years, and
over lunch, without a smile, he reminded me I’d dumped him not once
                        but twice. He’d never forgiven me, his back
            rigid as a Louisville Slugger while
he insisted on paying the bill. Or was he bored and eager to leave? When
                        was it students began to see me as old enough
            to be their mother? That September
afternoon Marissa said in my office, “Oh Dr. Barker, your shoes are so
                        cute, they’re just like the ones my mom
            wears!” Now the apple arcs from
another direction—Belinda says maybe the poem’s about sadness over
                        a woman’s desertion, so all the man’s left with
            is one apple on the countertop. But—
I’ll admit it—though this kid could be my grandson, he’s so damn cute
                        I’m smitten and all too aware I’ve been
            dropped from the team. Where is
that smooth-skinned girl my boyfriend loved? Forget the snide remarks
                        I’d wanted to make, the rant about
            Rossetti’s Goblin Market with
those leering men offering fruit so tongue-luscious you grew addicted,
                        sickened, died. Forget my desire to snipe
            that women are not grapes, plums
waiting for hornets, yellow-jackets, to sting them dry. So I tell him
                        to read Shakespeare, write a new poem
            showing a lover as nothing like
a piece of fruit—and add that he’d throw a three-pitch strike-out
                        if he just described an apple
            so we’d hanker for its tang.


Langston Hughes’ “Weary Blues”

Needs no explaining in this class. No one needs a gloss
                                    on “Suicide’s Note,” that river so calm, asking a kiss,
            yet none of us around this table
                                    has ever been kept out of a KFC or a multiplex
because of our skin. “Nobody knows the trouble
                                    I’ve seen,” sang Lena Horne, who couldn’t stay
             at the Savoy-Plaza after she’d
                                    made the crowd swing. Enough trouble right here
in this room. Ann’s just driven from the hospice,
                                    her gay dad’s body shriveling into the sheets,
            her mother and brothers refusing
                                    to visit. Last week Robert’s cousins were found
mangled by the train tracks in Sabinas for the Los Zetas
                                    dope they were running, only way to pay for beans
            and rice. This morning in my office
                                    Christina soaked through the six tissues I offered
as she told how the fucked-up ex-marine raped her
                                    in the ass over and over, his loaded .45 beside
            the pillow. No wonder Hughes’
                                    pianist “stopped playing and went to bed,” where
he “slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.” I need
                                    to focus on the poem, call and response, structure
            of the blues. Nathan might help,
                                    he’s a musician. But already he’s talking: “Hey, after
class, how many of y’all want to drive over to JJ’s,
                                    awesome piano, sax, bass this week, what do you
            say?” And all I say is, “Count me in.”  


Wendy Barker’s novel in prose poems, Nothing Between Us: The Berkeley Years, was runner-up for the Del Sol Prize and was published by Del Sol Press in 2009. Earlier full-length collections of poetry include Poems from Paradise (WordTech, 2005), Way of Whiteness (Wings Press, 2000), Let the Ice Speak (Ithaca House, 1991), and Winter Chickens (Corona Publishing Co., 1990). Barker has also published three chapbooks: Things of the Weather (Pudding House Press, 2009), Between Frames (Pecan Grove, 2006) and Eve Remembers (Aark Arts, 1996). A selection of poems accompanied by autobiographical essays, Poems’ Progress (Absey & Co.), appeared in 2002, and a collection of translations (with Saranindranath Tagore) from the Bengali of India’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, Rabindranath Tagore: Final Poems (George Braziller, 2001), received the Sourette Diehl Fraser Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Recipient of an NEA fellowship, a Rockefeller residency fellowship in Bellagio, as well as other awards in poetry, including the Violet Crown Book Award (which she has received twice, for Way of Whiteness in 2000 and for Between Frames in 2007) and the Mary Elinore Smith Poetry Prize from The American Scholar, she has also been a Fulbright senior lecturer in Bulgaria. Her work has been translated into Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, and Bulgarian. She is Poet-in Residence and a professor of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio.