Reversal of Fortune


That . . .


Today, I write:

no brain lock or writer’s block,

never idle or addled, plot upon plot.

Practical prompts, writing schedules,

I aspire − become renowned

as scribe of insightful stanzas,

presumptuous puzzles

toward tour de force status,

something deemed a Classic.

Endowing with endearing words

as adulating aficionados gnaw painted nails,

climaxing with thumbs-up . . .

verses no-doubt-deserving

a dedicated shelf in bookstores –

glitzy chain and Indy alike –

masterwork, magnum opus!



This . . .


Today, I fret:

soured lines glares back,

needing reweaving into resonance.

Fictions and goading prose whacked

into petite victories, hard to celebrate.

Suppress a passive verb.

Second coat of adjectives.

Laminate lame line with adverb.

Pious patinas . . . hocus-pocus. . . .

I declare to the image, make homage

to the muse, regret oft-committed sin.

Lesser pleasures depress ears,

joys chopped, smeared over tongue.

Eyes directed to shadowy things,

I re-pledge to slivers and scattered

scruples backsliding across my page.



On the Shelf


A single space gapes between

books on the shelf.  Most fill

allotted slot unread, collected during

semesters, or cluttered years.

At attention behind framed photos

and dusty memorabilia, well-worn

volumes denote evidence of worthy

pursuits: immediate joys weighing

against passed lulls, token props

and notions.  I shall vow to search

for another book to bridge the nagging

breach in my archive.  Pillage boxes,

stacked and stored; or revive a weighty

transcript –  not just a joyful passage –

one revered cover to cover.  Drab

shrouds stare back, awaiting re-sorting.


Perhaps I could disguise the gap, dust off

a snapshot of a past-lover’s bleary smile,

on a blurry day: her unanimated eyes, our

overcast desire never dowsed, since hidden

spellbound in a drawer.  Even a colorful vase

might stand in: yet bouquets become a nuisance

. . . the watering and required trims. . . .

Each shelf evokes slivers of the man I sought,

every boring binding a craving: pages

of extinct minutes, passed-on un-mended,

too easily supplanted with prattle.  The gap

reminds me of my delinquent spaces

I must fill before true midnight turns,

reread awkward chapters only skimmed.

Revisit bookmarks, and retranslate

word by word to reckon a foreseen self.


Sam Barbee 


Poems have appeared Poetry South, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Potato Eyes, Georgia Journal, Main Street Rag, Iodine, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection, and The Blue Hour. His fiction has been recognized by the Norfolk Society for the Arts and published in Atlantis. His Second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (Press 53), was published in April of 2016, and a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch”; and is a Pushcart nominee.  Sam lives in Winston-Salem with his wife and has two children, and retired from his day-job of 32 years with the Winston-Salem Recreation Department. He is the 2017 President of the NC Poetry Society, and Past-President of Winston-Salem Writers.

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