poetics unleashed: lydia barker


unmarried housewife

A lone figure stalks the dusty carpet,
Negotiating the perilous journey ’round plastic jungle and paper desert…
Unceremonious, unpoetic,
She is still in her oversized t-shirt and men’s grey sweats,
Bed clothes and messy hair.
The house is silent, grey, and cold enough to make those slender fingers
Reaching to illuminate the stairwell, her hand slips
And the lights flicker once, twice
And go out.
Moving past the switch she walks up anyway
“I didn’t really need the light”
But it gives comfort to that bare hall
Flanked on all sides by closed doors
And a full length mirror,
Cheap glass and silver paint.
For once she is home at 2:19,
Sitting crosslegged on an unmade bed,
Notes and books and pens spread before her,
Arrayed with girl scout cookie crumbs,
Cellophane wrapper tossed aside,
Old sheets with faded diamonds,
Mismatched pillowcases, slightly used.
Insistant noise breaks through her dreamscape,
Stately beggars utilizing A.G. Bell to ask for alms;
Irritated, she answers roughly, glaring at the telephone,
“No, I’m just the ‘home, sick’ daughter…
Please call back when mother’s home.”


chewing gum

Methodical, her jaw works
Oblivious to the concentration on lecture notes,
Up and down, slowly;
Mangling the chewing gum
That clearly won’t give way…
It’s like a pendulum in motion,
Never pausing, never missing a beat
Until the wheels run down.
I don’t know her
But I think,
She smiled at me



Every year the seasons prompt
A downfall, fatalistic and assured
That the world sliding past
This clouded window
Is ugly, mean, and utterly self-satisfied,
Smug with mercenary knowledge,
Cold and wet and gray,
Slipping into an oily black night
Lit by the perpetual beat
Of the traffic lights:
Green, yellow, red.
That spiral’s so familiar,
So easy;
Just stare out
And let the headlights reflect
Their heartless halogen glare (Hell?)
Into unseeing eyes
And sink.
No worries.
The next thaw will bring
The inexorable return of day,
That sense
That night’s a little farther off,
Dusk not quite so chill,
And your spirit’s just a little higher.
Spring will always come again.


Originally published:
Issue Twenty-Five
April 2003


Lydia Barker is a full time workaholic-student in northern Virginia.When she’s not frantically trying to memorize something for an exam, she can often be found inking, composing, or doing editorial work for the literary magazine Threshold. Her passion, animals, is expressed through her Humane Society work.

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