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Thursday, May 14, 2020


by Sam Barbee

Ruddy scar protracts the kept
thatch. Rusty shovels propped
as the backhoe heaves beside
the Common Grave: so many
paupers, so many people.

Pine box as caress, no time
for a tight-lipped benediction.
Spray of silt for mantles of boroughs,
and heights and neighborhoods.
No time for individual petitions.

No last kiss, or cross. Veterans
without flags or rifles on this
drab afternoon of a drab dawn.
Trees along the river, quiet field
where pigeons do not bother.

Death’s centrifugal angst plotted
within the City’s adaptable aura.
Time to seal today’s thawing dead.
The diesel throttles up. PPE-clad
laborers, leather palms tight.

Topsoil chokes off creeds, and
rings and rosaries, worry beads.
Distant tugboats sail the Hudson.
Gulls spiral behind their churning
murk, below pinwheels of gray clouds.

Sam Barbee’s poems have appeared Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.  His second poetry collection That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53) was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016.