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Manhattan Interlude

1 Minute Read

I am in a lift, heading up to the forty-fifth floor, to Russell’s apartment, 45-O, the studio apartment with the grand piano, the windows overlooking midtown Manhattan. On windy nights you could feel the building sway, ever so slightly. On cold nights – how many were there? – he lit a fire. I remember a fireplace, although it’s possible there wasn’t one. We’d make love, silently, because I was too shy to speak once my clothes were off. I thought my body should be able to say enough, to say all I couldn’t, the words sliding off my body onto the bed, into the air, on our sweaty limbs as they coasted over each other—it’s no good. I can’t remember much about us back then. I do remember he made me scream once – that may have been the first time I’d ever had an orgasm with someone inside me – but that was in my shared apartment on the eighth floor, a West End Avenue sublet, books lining the walls of the curving entry hallway, where the two rooms radiated off. There was a piano there, too, but it was in bad need of a tuning, which my roommate and I could never afford, and the real tenants were living elsewhere, in Europe or someplace I only dreamed about at the time. Russell went on the QE2 from New York to London, where they had grand pianos ready for him. That January it snowed a lot and I waited for him to call me. I knew when he was returning but he didn’t call for another week. The next winter he said he was getting married. Since I hadn’t ever been able to talk to him in a way that didn’t involve my body, I wasn’t surprised, but I felt my heart craze against my stomach when he told me. I went to the pre-wedding party, a posh event in a huge uptown apartment. I don’t remember anything about it except what I wore, and I expect I drank too much. My friends thought I was mad to go. I moved to London the following summer. Now I look him up on the internet and of course he has no idea.

From Barbara’s collection To the Boneyard published by Eyewear Publishing. You can purchase it here.

I Am Young

1 Minute Read

I am not young. This is a strange thing. I surprise the mirror, remind myself, I am not young. But I am not convinced. I am young, I say to myself. I argue without saying anything. And then I see someone my age wearing something I might have worn twenty years ago and I think No. I would not wear that now. And I know, then. I am almost persuaded. I walk quickly alongside a young woman and I forget again. I see a woman in the shop window: all that time, germinating. It’s a puzzle. That boy there, leaning against the train door. I would have fancied him, I think, just after I think how nice he looks, how I very nearly fancy him now. I should tie a string around my finger. I forget so much.


1 Minute Read

All those nights of different lovers, thinking they wanted me
because I was special, they fucked me because they wanted to stay.
All that empty fucking that meant nothing and I thought it meant
something real was about to happen, as if fucking itself wasn’t real at all.
The night Dominic said I was aloof I decided I wanted him,
to prove to him I wasn’t, when every time before,
he’d come into the bar where I worked and I’d thought he was an idiot.
I’d make his Bloody Mary with extra horseradish anyway
and put him down to harmless. Began to see that maybe he was
a nice enough guy. But I didn’t get why he attracted so many girls.
Then the aloof thing, in someone else’s bar, and by god I’d show him.
He’s one of the D’s I remember. I know there was a string of Daves
and a Dan, a Del and a Dean – whom I actually loved – and the other
letters seemed equally represented but the only time I put them
in an order was when I couldn’t sleep. The B’s were weighty, the M’s
always a surprise – five Mikes, a Melody, a Mark or two – by the time
I got to the N’s, I was asleep. I couldn’t count them because the number
kept changing, or I’d forget one, or one would get misplaced
and I’d have to slot them in. Later I found myself forgetting most of them
and faces would pop into mind with no identity,
floating by as I wondered who they were, if they were aggregates
of other parts of other faces, if any of them knew.
And the dark winters, the endings of nights I’d walk home,
the Upper West Side at three in the morning. I’d push through
new two-foot drifts and feel the cold begin to seep into the seams
of my boots, and the snow looked permanent under streetlights.

Beginning Ballet over Forty

1 Minute Read

I think yes, I have it. The pas de valse is slow

but winning. And then she wants a pirouette

in the mix and, in the room, I’m the tornado,

dizzy and feeling like I’ve been caught


stumbling in my underwear, a dipsomaniac

on the sprung-wood floor. I know she won’t

believe me when I say it was fine at home—


there, I have about as much room to practise

as a mouse in a milk jug; quality

must count for something. It’s like following

the cracks in the pavement and not


stepping on them for fear of breaking

your mother’s back. Only the cracks are never

a pace wide anymore, and it’s my back now.

Surprise Me

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