the poetry that matters

Carla Barkman

Carla Barkman is a family physician in Atikokan, Ontario. This winter she plans to move to Saskatchewan to work for Northern Medical Services. Her poetry has appeared in Grain, CV2, NeWest Review, prairie fire, and other literary journals, and in the anthology Collected Sex.


At the Associates’ Meeting





How involved do we want to get

Now that we’re a bigger organization

That kind of leads into

Some health & safety stuff

The sign should be posted

It should be at the drawing lab

It doesn’t have to

In this town, everyone has their blood drawn

Sure they do

Sure they can


Ah, Cuba

Who knew that San Francisco was a city

In the Dominican Republic

Where a young bilingual girl might go to study the law


No one really knows the answer to that

He likes to divert us, to change the subject

He’s trying to avoid direct accusations of fraudulent

Behavior & laziness

Here’s her little draft

She’s made policies about

She is a sweetheart & wears a red sweater

I’d like to tell you but I am shaking

You are holding my gaze for much too long,

I must divert my eyes

My boy dances around & buzzes like a bee,

Even pollinates silk flowers

& cries because I can’t go home with him






God, I’m tremulous

From seven Glossette raisins

I would like to draw the shape of the bungalows

At Peach and Quiet in Barbados onto this page in words

Four rectangular blue blocks on a white base but

Now we’re discussing summer holidays & how we must rotate

Blocks of four weeks

I’m going to be in California, my God it will be beautiful

Red Hot Chili Peppers & a convertible

Give it to medical records

It would honestly be easier

The way it always works

We have lots of time

I’ve already booked my flights, though

Why do we have to fight, my love, my sweet girl

We will be handing out scholarships

We will be pillars in this community

Have we lost you?

Have we taken you to the ball or anywhere?

Will you be dancing with me or my boys?





She is there a good portion of the time

So far it’s working fine

Everything seems to be going swimmingly

She does some books here & there & we don’t know her long-term plans

But whatever

When we are searching for another person we’ll be sorry

We might as well do it right away

Why am I so flushed & waiting

No, why wait

We could renew

We could decide on colors now or in the future

Will there be a time when we won’t need her

I’m considering Minneapolis

I’m considering taking a leave from this life

To stare into your eyes

To change your dirty tensor

My god

You’re beautiful

You and your antifreeze burn, your busted radiator at forty below





Who will pay, someday?

Who when the books are complete?

It’s a billing issue for us & also

There is something raw in my fingertips

I’d like to know the calculations & how one might reconcile that

With the likes of these red ears

& this silver ring with brass inlays

& the blood that seeps & these hangnails

At least I will save my father’s photographs

Of his paintings propped up against the deck

At least I will paste them into my book

These are the arguments I would like not to make

These are the ways I blush & would prefer to remain silent

Cutting her off, he pauses & demurs & my child is bathing

Waiting for me to roll with him into bed





I think we do need to be aware that it won’t be as simple as all that, necessarily

& we are asking the board members to wrap their heads around this scenario

Which is why I suggested that we could keep contracting to her in the first place

There’s that issue of childcare, & the lunar eclipse, the full-on moon disappearing

By degrees beneath the cold earth’s shadow

There is also the question of this poor girl’s camper out at Clearwater

Which is big enough for families of four times two,

Big enough for her daughter & my son who will not, after all,

Be in the same kindergarten

Roberto restless with binoculars watches the sky

The smell of a lit match

The stench of my cigar while plugging in the car

Caleb at home waiting for his ipod update

What about benefits for employees of the organization

Are they specifically attached

Are we avoiding the issues

Is my face on fire


May be we should move on

May be we’re avoiding this & much more

May be her daughter is waiting for her speaking about biases & nursing schedules

May be her daughter is happily sleeping

Maybe I’ll bring this on down

Or maybe it will all come to naught

To nothing

To night


& all at once the moon is gone








Not Fifteen



We are no longer fifteen.  We are organized to a fault.  Our skin relates to our moods relates to our indiscretions.


We no longer file our nails as we drive through Saskatchewan.  We don’t keep up to date or in the know but rather we are certain


that we prefer unhurried lakes, trees without sway.  Our hair should be flaxen, always.  Our pant size


We need the usual concoctions listed in our charts, under medications.  Nortryptiline, raloxifene, fluoconazole in case of budding


We should be sure to shower regularly.  We must not eat less than seven servings per day & ideally dark green leafy vegetables not fruit fruit fruit, sweetheart oranges.  Every day an avocado & a drinkable yogurt & soy of one kind or another.


We sleep high above ground always, & frequently with each other.


We take a tray

We silver line a tray for cakes & designate the sun room the smoking room.  Though our unfortunate itches & dry lips persist, we are sophisticates.


We are not forty-five, either.










Real Geography



the fluidity of sound, compartmentalization of bullets

shading highlights skipped heartbeats

asklepios leaping from my breast bone as it becomes ischemic


at ninety that firm lady is concerned

because her arms are bruising

the alternative being a bruised heart, or

a necrotic bloodless heart


today is a sunny day

tonight I will lie restless on the hide-a-bed

my legs exhausted from repeated firing

of neurons, NMJ’s, ask Lepios

how to sleep


ask me how I do it, day becoming day – I don’t know

how to rest or move extraordinarily or how

to make noises that collide

brilliantly, how to set the pieces of matter side by side


where to move the chair

how to pinch dust or flick air





                                                                                                     December 8, 2013