two poems

I would, I say. What makes you so good, / you say.

So You Would Like To Be My Poet?

I would, I say. What makes you so good,
you say. Well, I say, fumbling my papers,
like fire I take, briefly, the form of what
I destroy. Why haven’t I heard of you,
you say. You will love me, I say, for the knife
in my heart. Look, I say, it goes in here.
You say, under your breath, making a note,
Thinks he’s Lorca. What else, you say.
My poems, I say, interrupt you in the road
like children in a brass band. While I’m
driving? you say. My poems follow the blind
force of nature, and bestial motion.
You say, making a note, Steals from Jenkyn.
I come at you slow, I say, kicking over
my chair, through the murky waters
of mid-range literary magazines! Anyway,
you say, I have your books and will
get back to you. Oh fuck off, I say. Ah! you say.

Dreams of Scarlett the Red Dog

            Out of the dust of four directions
limps my dark-fur mother,
                        pietà of the ditches,

            blood-drinker, prophetess,
her myriadfold goblins
                        sipping malt liquor

            from her paps, she bites my leg,
I yip I yip I yip
                        Do not murder me, mother!

             I haven’t yet learned
to cross the mountains!

                        She spares me,

              her malignant nestlings
stumbling after. From under a tree
                         I watch villagers

              their wolfdogs their pitchforks
stone her, hag of hell …
                         She limps off

               to the fields, her feral ones scream
in the night, the harvest
                         sinks on the vine.

About the author

John Wall Barger is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Smog Mother. His book of essays on poetics and film, The Elephant of Silence, comes out in spring 2024 with LSU Press. He’s a contract editor for Frontenac House, lives in Vermont, and lectures in the Writing Program at Dartmouth College.