Three Poems – Benjamin Barker

 

 Man-on-fire

Making War

The first time we fucked, it was on the living room floor
while a war documentary blared on the television.
We had made love many times before,
but that was when we cared about diplomacy.
We were having some dispute,
like most international conflicts
accounts vary on how it started.
It was either about laundry, dishes,
or whose national currency would fare better on the global market.

Whatever the opposite of jingoism is,
that’s what we felt for each other.
Our skin simply following orders
like soldiers who don’t care about international embargoes or UN summits,
men who don’t love their country,
who just want to make something bleed.

We laid on the rug,
they carpet bombed London.
Our naked bodies dripped with sweat,
theirs were piled in mass graves.
You cried “Oh God, oh God!”
so did they.




On Being Raised By Arsonists

When my father was young
he had a hard time pronouncing the words “I’m sorry”
so instead, he lit matches.

My brother Chris was always the most flammable.
He loved my father the way my father loved Vietnam:
faster and more violent than napalm.

The way they showed their affection
drenched the walls in so much gasoline
that if we ever lost our way home,
all we had to do was follow the smoke.

I don't know why my father disowned him,
But it surprised me how quickly a last name can light.

When my brother died,
his body was burned in a furnace.
My parents put his whispers into fancy mason jars
as if forgiveness is a fruit you can preserve in a can.
My dad put the urn on his trophy shelf.

I dreamt once about my father carving Chris's name into a coal
heating it on stove
and letting it eat at his palm
allowing the blisters to apologize for him.

My parents never talk about Chris,
but he is always in the room
My mother powders her face with his ashes
while my dad washes his hands in lighter fluid.

My family tree is a burning bush,
every forest fire is a reunion.

Truth is, nobody knows how to love without burning.
All of our families have flint hands and steel promises.
Every home is broken.
We have all been gardens tended by arsonists.

My mother likes to say
"It is better to live in a house that’s burning
than die outside in the cold."

Yes,
everything was on fire,
but at least we were warm.

 

House On Fire Vs The Sunset

I dare you to document beauty.
To tally sunflowers against winter.
To decide which would make a better piece of art,
A birthday card or a death certificate.
Record every time the moon’s rays make love to cherry blossoms
And compare the total
To the number of grand canyons that can fit inside your loneliness.

Surrender to the dripping water faucet in your backyard
Fall irrevocably in love with the way gravity curls the droplets into perfect spheres.
Determine whether or not they are more aesthetically pleasing than your father’s balled fists.
Keep track of the number of drops that fall before he empties himself into another bottle.

Document every metaphor and simile you cherish,
Every verse that summons miracles from your belly,
Every stanza that steals swans from your mouth,
Visit their authors’ graves and place IOUs on their headstones.

Whenever the sound of traffic makes you feel infinite,
Each moment you grin so wide you forget your name,
When midnight trembles at your footsteps,
Juxtapose that glory with the time you found out your mother had cancer.

Become a mathematician of the sublime.
Graph your lover’s smile.
Plot the gap in her teeth on the X axis
The amount of Beatles song she can sing along to on the Y
Compare the resulting parabola to the shape of your brother's obituary.

Prove that her laughter is more violent than death.
That the sun is brighter than the night is dark.
Prove there is beauty more fearful than a cemetery,
That there is something sharper than a scythe,
Prove that there exists some tender block of fire
More ancient and haunting than departure.

Prove me wrong.

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About Benjamin Barker

Benjamin Barker was born at a fairly young age and had a dreadfully Norman Rockwell upbringing. Ben is the founder of the Ogden Poetry slam, was a member of the 2013 Salt City Slam team, is currently the SlamMaster for Voice Boxers and serves as an administrator for the Salt Lake based non-profit Wasatch Wordsmiths. View all posts by Benjamin Barker

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