Carol Barrett


the way of the light
            for Reg Saner

You would find if you could
under the earth, burning a pocket
for your hand, this blue light
on your Christmas tree. I keep meaning
to tell you: Monday I found it
in my grandmother’s rose garden
now owned by the bank.
The earth curled back like shaved chocolate
and there it glowed a blue birth.
The cavity deepening, dusk, I bent near,
curious, entered, turned around
on the inside, found myself
saying: now go down carefully.
Soon, a blanket of soil
tucked up to my chin, the snow
turned down like a sheet,
I heard roses growing.  So I prepared
this dream: your soft blue
in my hand, lighting
a fistful of air, traveling
my veins.

The light will come again,
the dream: in a trunk you discover
after your sister’s funeral,
in the Easter eggs your daughter
paints, your name in pink crayon.
You will find if finally
in your top drawer. Touching it,
remember the earth
swollen with light. Go out,
unafraid to leave
what you cannot hold
nor keep, nor place.

first published in Colorado State Review


Instructions for a Long Life

Read more faces, more
tombstones, more poems.
Among the sheep
and the shamrock search out
the old women.
Touch the squares of their quilts,
the blue stitches on their white
nights. Feed their cats
fish. Spare nothing.
In the morning incant the wind
to clear leaves from the gutters.
Lift the oars of their mid-day boats
and watch the evening
lie down on the lake.
Say good-bye to each day
as if it were the first.


first published in Touchstone



The waitress has served her last order,
deep dish pie drizzled with caramel,
and late tea, hibiscus, crimson

as cranberry. She makes the rounds
of tables no longer in conversation
with forks. Above each low lamp

she pauses, lifts the salt and pepper,
one each hand, clicks them, twice,
granules falling down long-stemmed vas.

Dark fronds slipping to her chin,
she checks the level, unwinds the silver
caps, fills, then double clicks again.

All about the room she roams,
dancing her small dance
in green apron, crystal castanets

blessing there, and there, close by
now, serenading as I sip the sweet
flower, spoon the fruit.

She could be a priest
waving a censer with brick
of charcoal, resin of myrrh.

Some might hasten this evening
chore, but she of joyful purpose
clicks, looks, then clicks again,

each linked pair deserving
her almost private music:
I am filled. Good night.


first published in Adanna


Drawing a Church

Work from the basement up.
Set the chairs and furnace high.
Roll white paper on folding
tables, creasing the edge
with your thumb. Stack
blue-gray hymnals on a bench
and count the canes swinging.
Continue with casseroles.
At the last, render a thousand
unexpected guests. Only then
attempt the steeple.


first published in The Creative Woman





Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, OR.