barbara young

When She Was Venus

One day,
a nesting-doll of books and dogs
        and rock-and-roll; pimento cheese,
                        dreams, rum, text messages, and humdrum
        in a shell of shapeless day-to-day straightened her back
while the whine of the vacuum shuddered off.
        The dense hush expected another unremarkable chore
                and everything was waiting
when the TV in the other room began to sing. “Speak low,”
advised its song, “when you speak love.”
        Strings rose behind the words wind-warm,
                found a space among the woman’s nestled layers
        empty as a night between two days,
                fit there like a lacquer skin.
And she was on the beach,
        feet bare; and the damp cooling sand stretched flat
                between a bonfire and the moon, she
a dancer,
        her back to the partner who lifted her
                as a wave lifts foam or a fire its light.

Could she have forgotten that?
        She smiled, amazed. And later that day,
                suddenly, smiled again.
                And the next.
        Speak low.

While You Were Gone

while you were gone
the feral cats turned black,
now bad luck slinks through the shadows
of holly, sinuous as winter snakes, stealthy as depression.

while you were gone
the chickens came home to roost
the kettle boiled, and I spilled the salt.
this soup I’m in does no one’s soul much good.

while you were gone
the weather changed its mind
three times. bare limbs wrap around
trunks, and the painters stripped us of storm windows

while you were gone
my left eye became irritated
red, and sulky, weeping for no reason.
my right considered a run for president.

Barbara Young is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. She is freckled and graying; likes her coffee, beer and chocolate black; and drives a car that is larger on the inside than out. Her husband is tolerant: her cats, not.

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