the poetry that matters

Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and performer. His music and writing have been published and presented in Canada, the US, and overseas. He received a PhD in Music Composition and was the recipient of the KM Hunter Foundation Artist Award for his writing. Seeing Stars, a YA novel, was a finalist for both Canadian Library Association YA book of the year, and an Arthur Ellis Award. His poetry includes Outside the Hat and Raising Eyebrows (both Coach House) and, with derek beaulieu, frogments from the frag pool (Mercury) His fiction includes Doctor Weep and other strange teeth and Big Red Baby. The Briefcase Hand, a new poetry collection, is forthcoming from Coach House. His latest chapbooks are Inverting the Deer  (serif of nottingham) and, with Gregory Betts, Chora Sea (Emergency Response Unit). He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and teaches music at Hillfield Strathallan College. He can be found at garybarwin.com and serifofnottingham.blogspot.com



the other months are clean

so I’m vacuuming August

dusting the remnants of summer

left in the corners

the invoice for light that the sun sent

expecting the horizon to pay for the days’ sparkle


there’s a fawn up the flagpole here at Camp Bambi

it’s unflappable

though the wandering abacuses count their teeth lucky

in love with stationary, staplers and my desk chair

how to report this to accounting

accurately and without alerting the campers

or the piles of rubble, elected by a landslide?


O Vermin Melville Pest Control Incorporated

there is no darkness under the floorboards

or anywhere else, really

light wears its brittle nightgown

its soft body a chrysalis for dusk

it’s more of a mood that fills the world with night







my son goes into the ground


what connects us is only

this rope


as always there is a big scissors

like a prehistoric bird

a pterosomethingorother

wincing in the moon’s light


an armful of cuts

my son’s and mine

have turned like leaves

or birds

have become scars







He that dwelleth in the secret places of the belly shines a mighty light and twists poodles out of shadow.


I will say my insides have barked their refusal for I have eaten the wrappers of garrulous cattle and my scars lust after rain.


Surely within 40 minutes they shall deliver the sneer of the turtledove, dispense excess joy from the noisome duffle bags of stars.


For he has covered thee with his feathers, and under his breath there are wings: his teeth are an encyclopedia-size dinner which protects you as the jeweled coleslaw protects a deck of cards from bellicose pickle fencing.


 Thou shalt not be fried by the flummoxed terriers of night, nor diced by the drumsticks of the day that flieth towards thee like the bittersweet vagina of lawn


Still not by the penis that juggleth chainsaws in darkness and proclaims it was fathered by magma; and also not by the mispronounciations that wasteth the noondog in the Galleria parking lot and offer not a luminous pylon in comfort


Like the green leaves of cash, a thousand shall stride beside the autumnal blastocyst of winter, and ten thousand shall consider their right hand their left and teach their children so; but it shall not draw close as uranium pinking shears upon the foam of thy bathwaters.


Only with nine eyes couldst thou—the eight-eyed—hold and dandle the infant words of the mewling cricketers.


Because thou hast made loud that which was my silent dolphin, my jar that had no mouth and so was the lightbulb where my blind quiet could live and be the Tinkerbell of beaming ducks.


No ladders shall fall over thee, neither shall any beach sand come nigh thy dwelling and fill it with the mirthful and prehensile haberdashery of lifeguards


For he shall make hyperbolic triangles to flutter over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.


And they shall make thy ears into punk airplanes lest thou dash mayonnaise against a stone.


Thou shalt tread only upon the lion and the abacus: the suspenders and the answering machine emerge like a trump card from the silken slit of twilight in which thou ask to travel first class


Because he hath set his dove upon me, therefore will I make a shopping cart of tongues: I will set alight a paper bag upon a nimbus of square waves because he hath made it snow my name all over the parking lot and in cursive.


He shall call upon me as the antidote upon the phone booth and I will answer him as the lucid stapler and the breath of moths herd the ardent buffalo of the cruise ship: I will be with him in trouble; I will be as saliva on the migrating oak, an orange on the bad boy of gladness.


With long life will I satisfy him and throw away my tiny shoes.







there was a lake

and the wind



what is it we hoped for

ourselves out here on the peninsula


a path through the trees

where there is no path


a stand of trees where

there is no standing






our own footprints in the sand ahead

before the tide comes







Daddy said

Son you have to make your own dog

if you have none


and I said

I have a fire hydrant

so I can just imagine







under the papers of my desk

I discover

a small stone


yesterday I invented fire


I will create

a new tool

I will call it “hammer”


I pick up the stone

—gee, this thumb comes in handy—

I smash it against my forehead


the clouds part and there is thunder

the trumpets of my ears

signal those to the east of me

those to the west

an army marches across a blood red sea


a tiny baby is propped

in wet sand between the shores

I will call it ‘baby’

a useful tool

neither one thing

nor the other







Brazen spatula of the sky

I must remember to dismember

The moribund hopscotch of my guffaw

My cortical scrabble

The angelic bread-breeder wisdom

That clouds the knees


Was there ever a time when

The mailbox was corpulent with spent fish

My tongue a horror of patchwork facemask bosons

Stalemate boomerang fortitude clogging my arms?


But I expect you’ve heard about

The moving elbows of my attempts to multiply

My skin set upon a mast

And the shapely blade of water

Creasing my cow-friendly crepuscular zither


Ride with me in the woodblock

A premonition of slack

And a thousand birds buffeting

Torrents of my eye-bleached ballet


Let me speak plainly:

In the creaking corner

A toolbox sorrow and the tonsils

A reply of desk bus overalls and

A tithe on the ledge of before I was born


I run

I satiate

I porous gratitude in the rust bound palaver

But then again

I gravitate

And you are a shrewd arithmetic of mention

The recanted pajamas of scent


Mention me

O statutory gasps of the nosedive I would give myself

If I had a nose

the bent planet a leg

And you in new shoes


Together we can be a nebula on the precipice of sport

A doughboy velocity with the attributes of

“Quick, quick, it is over.”

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