A tomcat forces his way in,
moaning. A woman beats him
with her broom but he won’t quit
prowling for what he desires.
She forgives pins and plates
doctors inserted to screw her together,
loud neighbors, pale clouds. Herons
dance by the river, extend their wings,
lift their beaks toward the sky.
They step in unison, fly up together,
squabble and part. She doesn’t ask
that explosion of blue to mean something.
Did a man lose her number
and the tangle of letters that form
her address? Where earth slumps
to gullies, she studies the natural flow
of matter, crushes weeds till they give up
their fragrance, watches at night
for moths drawn to campion
among tossed condoms and beer cans.
She forgives the brutal lusts of cats.
One on the ground, blood on her dress.
And one waking as sun reaches in
to warm a wide bed. Each day a new
corpse springs to death in a TV drama
we watch together, old episodes from before
cell phones, corpses with eyes open, gaping
mouths, heads tilted back. Even our hair,
even our arms are filling with death,
but we know it’s fictive distraction.
I used to go to the Berlin Mart looking
for stories, turning through dishes on open-air
tables, fingering tapes that would never
again wind through a tape player, rhinestones
on sunglasses, tattered baskets, baseball caps.
I thought I might buy our life back, that red
dress, those shining shoes. Never again,
the turning reel of music, bowl of clear marbles,
impossibly beautiful high-heeled shoes.
I want to turn Sherlock Holmes into the man
next door whose teenaged son
disappeared. And Watson? I heard
his wife died. He walks, smokes,
looks in a window where I’m played
by a British actress, dark haired, pensive,
trapped in the role she couldn’t refuse.
She sits on a wing chair behind sheer curtains.
smoking, patting her black Russian terrier.
Our simplest sentences detour through
star drifts. We listen to birds that cling
to their openwork cages. I say your name
and count our old selves shining in all
our mirrors. World, let me ride you,
hopeful, secure. Songs eddy, filling
the rooms. What’s left of my silk dress—
sash bright as firelight, soft as your skin.
Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in Lake Effect, Cleaver, Faultline, Small Orange, Meridian, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.