Barrett Warner


Making Hay, Thinking of My Mother


Reports have been coming in:
wrens nesting in a neighbor’s flowerpot
and someone found a box turtle.

It’s June and July and August
and this is what happens when
the garden is half-dead
and half just getting started.

I use my phone camera
and upload my own report:
look, two dead fawns
cut to pieces by the haybine.

Their doe meanders
back and forth between the corpses,
screaming, Robert, Robert!




The Yellow Pages of everything
I could have been is slimmer over time.
At forty, I tear out all the listings
for surgery when I notice the fluttering
in my left hand. Already gone: careers
in tumbling, geology, hanging on cliff sides.
That was a mistake. Would you let this man
cut you hair? I think not. Twenty pages
of beauty salons go into the fire.

I can neither buy, nor sell.
I cannot take apart or put back together.
Adios plumbing, live box wiring, carpentry.
You would not want to watch me turn a screw.
The legendary lilac bush dies back one winter
and doesn’t return. I cross off landscaping.

When I go fishing the bass swim the other way.
Each morning I roll out of bed intending
to make an omelet, but end up scrambling,
burning, scraping. Too much to remember.
I always feel a sense of accomplishment
crossing out the future, thinning out possibilities.

If you tear out enough pages you may find
a single listing for walking around, a lost
uncertain look on your face as you exclaim Wow
at frost on  the turnips, at the red smile
of blood as you slice another finger, Wow,
at seeing her leave, taking nothing, as if
she’d be right back fifteen years ago, and Wow,
she didn’t even return just once to see the lilac.


Nine Fingers Left


The foreman Lou walks on sea legs
to fetch his thirty-eight.
He’s always hated that horse,
especially now that it won’t
give back the finger.

I divert the animal with my hat,
which he savages,
and grab the rein finger.
Lou is near passing-out
and bleeding as he weighs
the mashed finger in his paw.

In the blue splash of his stare
I see him blaming someone
who lived in the Bible.
I offer electrical tape and 7-Eleven napkins.

Oh, thank Heaven, he says.
Somewhere in his future:
a swear-out with his woman Sassy,
percocets, sulpha, burgundy,
until the four o’clock reveille
to grain the runners,
find any soft edge to Hell,
a certain ritual no matter
yesterday’s troubles.

At dusk, I step around
the beast to gather the parts
of my hat worth saving.

      return to poetry

Barrett Warner raises running horses, persimmons and formerly captivated mallards at a farm in the Gunpowder watershed in Upperco, Maryland. His poems have appeared in Gargoyle, California Quarterly, Comstock Review and Natural Bridge, among others. New work is forthcoming in Quarter After Eight,  Pembroke Magazine, Slipstream, Southeast Review and Freshwater.