laurie barton

Animal Planet

Can that really happen? my little boy asks,
amazed at the tortoise mounting the female
whose tail he’s been dogging,
relentless through heather and dung.

What makes us all laugh
is the reptilian look of strained ecstasy,
scaly jaw stretched in a grimace of mind-blown
relief. Best part of the day, says my husband.

What I can’t forget is the sight of him
flipped on his shell. The power-kick
that landed him there. How his love lumbers off,
still dragging her burden of charm.

Winter Solstice Fantasy

December mornings
conjure the wish
for desert fire–
a wish for grown sons
to fill your verandah
with feasting and harps.

In boyish smiles, they’d
forgive their lost dad,
who gently destroyed
your happiness long ago,
as you tripped on toy cars
and broken dominoes,
paid your bills with old
flip flops peeling
like skin.

You’d wake to a miracle
of fitness, shedding the
flab of a lifetime:
the dreaded that sticks to us,
dogging us, chronically
weighing us down–

while longings scatter like
cranes, rising from marsh
so white and clean, we dream
of them turning, imagine them
falling toward our low
and constant call.

The Mexican Eye of God

No Bethlehem star at your house.
Instead, there was an Eye of God
at the top of your Christmas tree.

Woven by fathers at the birth of
a child, one single eye at the
center, benevolent regard.

The simple art of popsicle sticks
and all-knowing yarn. It could whisk
a shaman to illuminated stars,

draw people to earth and sea.
The eye of God watched us play
unknowingly. We couldn’t see it,

but God’s eye did: which one of us
would wrestle poems, which one would
live on Thorazine.

It could see one mind spinning
with gadget-dreams that spooled
like cotton candy.

The ojo kept a watchful gaze
on your two lungs, knowing just
how far they would carry you,

just when your life-breath
would fly into breezes, fanning
deserts to the edge of Potosí.

Laurie Barton is a Best of the Net finalist and winner of the New Southerner Literary Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in juked, Glass, Prick of the Spindle and is forthcoming in Word Riot and Lunch Ticket. She lives in southern California.