Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of the chapbook, Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, diode, Prime Number Magazine, StorySouth, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, The Rumpus, and on Verse Daily. She teaches at Lake Superior State University where she is co-editor of the journal, Border Crossing.
My grandfather had experience in one thing:
farming. What a gamble. How dependent upon rain
and sun and the change of seasons. How creative:
planting seeds in rows and hoping they’d grow,
putting faith in what he’d set down.
How unsteady, constantly at the mercy
of weather. My father went to college
so he wouldn’t have to worry about instability—
if it rains; if the sun shines. He didn’t want risk
but something certain and steady.
My father gave me certain and steady
and I wanted to experiment. He wanted me
to have a steady job and concentrated
our every conversation on my prospects.
I wanted to watch the sun come up and spread
its light on the dining room table.
I wanted to watch the day bloom
and petal into surprise.
While I was driving, the thoughts in my head wound around
each other, making noise like too many children in the back seat.
I forgot the rules and treated red lights like four-way stops.
Other drivers honked and shook their fists out of windows.
Worries tugged at me, wanting an unraveling. I pulled into
a parking lot full of gulls squawking and lifting into flight.
All the stores in the strip mall were dark, long out of business.
I stepped out and leaned against the car and watched the gulls
watching me as if I had anything to give them. They wanted
something small, a scrap of leftovers, and none of what
consumed me. This was not a real place to stop
but it was a place, full of nothing really,
which is what I wanted: a nothingness, birds flying,
bits of broken glass on asphalt, a tattered Going Out of Business
sign flapping outside a store window. A sky full of clouds
making shadows in the parking lot. Weightless wings.