< >

sarah barber




In all the stories you’re bad bad bad,
murdering Alexander or giving the city
diarrhea until there you are before
she was born when the loneliness
of the princess had already begun to be
intolerable as if there will be nothing
to do for years of days but drift
through rooms blue as panic, switching
lights on and off like some overwrought
sun until there you are in the winter
gardens growing up green and white
all around her until everything berried
is everything poisonous, milky and sweet
until there you are, clotted cream, clotted
blood, the blood in her cheeks so close
to the skin it doesn’t need roughing up
until there you are with the dying god
making himself known to poor little rich
girls gone bad mad bad naked running
the streets until there you are looking
like butter wouldn’t melt, like milk,
bread, sugar, honey, like something
sweet and clean to soothe unhappy
blankets and here you are: my mother
is planting you beside the dryer vent.


At the Beauty Salon, São Paulo


The dryer chairs hum, soft slurs
of gossip rising up from old ladies inside,
but I can’t understand them. I can
say yes and no but after the gestures
for trim and blow-out I’m on my own.
I can pick at my cuticles, hen and peck
at my sun damage and the state
of my soul while the hairdresser wastes
a full can of Aqua Net I can’t explain
will never hold me. Are you self-conscious
about being self-conscious? Can look
in the mirror? Can’t look in the mirror?—
Get your brows done. Get a husband.
This is no place to grow old.



At the Gynecologist’s Office


I’ll admit to sleeping around,
to watching a Japanese schoolgirl
shit in a tube fixed to another sweetheart’s mouth
and then—because I am chronically
medieval—to wondering
about the body’s relations with the soul
and through what openings we might escape
to heaven or get urinary tract infections.
I’ll feel a little pressure,
but the speculum shines with understanding and lube.
Unlike love, it hurts for a minute.





Sarah Barber’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Ninth Letter, Pleiades, New Ohio Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crazyhorse and Poetry, among other places. Her book, The Kissing Party, was published in 2010 by the National Poetry Review Press. She teaches at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY.