poetry quarterly

10th anniversary

Wynn Yarbrough



Recalcitrant, walk the silent passengers. Blurred, their faces bob above exit signs. Their faces,
hers and hims, shepherd us through the grinding whistle and wind symphony. Escalate us out

of the Metro. My ear, between folds of your voice's frequency, tests echoes of other voices
for another fold in this adulterous year. Could and could struggles from deep underground—

love's always listening ghost. My fear is another syllable folded ably selfward. My fear, feigned
or designed, chews deeply your tongue flapping its murderous chatter, chews you into silence.

Invisible, chews love's gristle. Could this be could? Could my head listen or just keep score
above the murmur. There goesmy face, flung into the window's blur, elsewhere on the Metro.

Here stay the steady, the sleeping, the silly—commuters in perfect reflection. Silence does not mean
absence. Though could squeals between brakes and new voices as love rides its shuffling train

into the city. Automatically, doors slide open. Automatically, impatient selves launch
themselves selfward, plow your voice into a companionless song. So many solo wishes ride

the escalator and jostle between the vibration under my feet and your heart's scored, scared
grip. So much of your voice and its words hold rails on their ascent and descent, in silent moving


Kazaan Viveiros
Acrylic and conte crayon on wood panel, 36"w by 48"h
see more work by Kazaan Viveiros



The girls' dense bones keep them skittish & shorebound: their faithlessness drums the armrests of their lawn chairs. Just a fire away, their boys hiss & simmer, blinded by the wobbling flicker of firelight. Several lily pads over, bullfrogs grog & blurt—Hurr, Hurr—their blunt heads, inert & fixed, thrum that same baritoned tune.

Loons call from the dark edges of the lake: Whoo? Whoo? Childless, the girls whistle through their closed fists. Their boys wash the ash from their lips with warm beer. They play men & invade the water, lunging for the girls flapping their sunburnt arms. Several lily pads over, bullfrogs grog & blurt—Hurr, Hurr & stop suddenly the way nothing has always been born.

The girls tuck their hard-tipped talons away & into their downs. After the fights in cars, after the baseless make-up sex. Whoo? Whoo? rings the lake. The girls dive over the stones: unsure of boys, unsure of being alone.

The girls' dense bones send them bottomward—they kick & flutter—turbulence rolls over their legs hooked under their boys' ribs. They've quit calling & flap madly, dart and drive their boys to land. Locomotion of lake water, muscle & sand, they shrill in their feast. Eat their prey—head to tail, eyes to anus and turn their echoes towards the East.



Harpers' Ferry, 2011

Standing knee-deep under a fish-scale sky,
knee-deep with all my mind animals crowding
a vision in these merging rivers. My eyes, ever protean,
skip the water, blind to people I've lost. Where debris
of anglers and lovers meet, a blue heron won't pause
for me and a final, mid-morning baptism. Won't rest
on me and clear-eyed tears and merging
faces of sex and death. While we stalk

ourselves, this bird and I, in our rippling mirrors
moving always. While we are stirred in natural,
inconsequential ways, we endure among
the weeds, the beer rings, and plastic lids.
We scan a hundred futures in a flash across
the waves lit up by the morning light's insistence.
Across your shadow, across the confluence, watch me lose
my shape. Lonely, aggressive bird of prey,
my heart's first guide, watch me walk
these rocks to my escape; you and I released to the wild.




She peers above the bars on the window & watches curling green leaves choke. Behind the glass, fall is blooming. What she feels is hope dying, what she can't hear are teh voices of the lonely rise in a wind taking clothes off the line. A leaf clings to the wire, shuttling back & forth between the gods & her husband who pins her bras & panties without thought but folds his dreams across the wavering cable, smiling. Blouses & stockings blow onto their lawn, nudge him slightly & float off. He steps outside himself with wings not entirely his own & forgets to stay. She shudders, knowing everything you are hangs from a line one day. What you aren't becomes voices, & while you can watch, leaves.


Say goodbye at the airport, you float off your mooring. Shells
we've collected cling to the dashboard. Waved on, you taxi down

an escalator & disappear behind glass walls—fingertips to
your forehead. Outside Dulles gulls flap selfishly on

their barricade stages. From head to toe, seam to seam, you wear
your black blue. Red-eyed, two aisles over, frequent flyers chatter

& crow: headpieces suck their kisses and promises while we war
& war our wordless tour. The shells we've collected won't make

a proper armor. Their rigging clicks & clicks. Through dead zones
& dropped calls, invisibly others connect without grasping

their ticket to their chest. They fly between departure & arrival
while a runway divides us. At each gate, another murder

of travelers mills through drizzle, & hopes to fly. Each flight
another gate to step skyward. I've pulled on my hat & gloves in case

you come back. On the tarmac, a child we make quickens
in the gas fumes below your fingers. Silence & violence hold

the backpack to your chest. Baggage claim in your hand, you funnel
victoriously toward your escape. My love is here & there &.

On the radio, a princess sings her silver-throated love shimmy, makes
a body sound easy. On the TV, mouths empty of integrity. "Here

is my love," she says as she hands the steward our answer. "Sure" cry
the hungry gulls who weave among the travelers & shells.


Wynn Yarbrough teaches Creative Writing and Children's Literature at the University of the District of Columbia. He is the author of two books: a volume of poetry, A Boy's Dream (Pessoa Press, 2011) and a nonfiction book, Masculinity in Children's Animal Stories, 1888-1928: A Critical Study of Anthropomorphic Tales by Wilde, Kipling, Potter, Grahame, and Milne (McFraland Press, 2011). He lives in Mt. Rainer, MD.


Published in Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 2012.

To read more by this author:
Wynn Yarbrough on Gil Scott-Heron: Poetic Ancestors Issue