What should have been but never was.jpg

October 2017

Julie Brooks Barbour

Surveying the Body

Panes break. Glass loosens and empties itself. Shards point up in the frames.

A field stretches away from the house.

This structure was once painted and named. Someone used a ladder to reach what was kept out of reach.
The wood of that ladder now splintered.

The door is not a door, cut from the structure when someone wanted in. Windows assume new
shapes and resemble nothing imagined, nothing prepared.

Strings dangle from light fixtures without bulbs. An empty hanger in the closet. A jacket of dust.
The kitchen cabinets keep empty jars.  Contact paper peels. 

The attic is only light and cobwebs, broken floorboards. A curtain in the kitchen door swings
through a window. Boards gray from wind and weather, some blacken from moisture. Some fall.
Sashes rot and disintegrate.

In the shed that leans away from its foundation, a bicycle without tires. Coiled ropes and chains.
A hatchet and a collection of empty metal cans.

The field stretches away endlessly.

The house waits. Two metal chairs sit side by side on the porch. A dress hangs in a window
upstairs. The showerhead winds into a vinyl curtain.

The grass in the yard grows wild and becomes the field.


Note: Inspired by images from This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains, photographs by Nancy Warner and text by David Stark (Columbia University Press, 2014).


Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of Haunted City (2017) and Small Chimes (2014), both from Kelsay Books, and three chapbooks, the most recent Beautifully Whole (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2015). Co-editor of Border Crossing and Poetry Editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, she teaches at Lake Superior State University.

Emily Corwin