Tom Barlow: 3 poems

Photo by Marco Midmore on Unsplash


I'm inside my refrigerator again, so dark
with the door closed, but I'm warmed
by the abundance around me.

Only in the fridge have I managed to force 
hunger to surrender, dragging it in here 
from the den, force-feeding it Velveeta 

and what was left of last night's casserole. 
With victory comes peace, dead silence 
except for the crackle of food wrappers, 

the snap when I open the catsup, the 
rustling of the froth that comes from 
opening a Coke. I pretend that the foodstuffs 
here adore me, the leftovers, the
beer bottles, but I know that in truth 
they would make room for anyone 

who wanted in. After all, they are desperate 
to escape this prison, find their way back 
into their home the earth and the fact

that they use me as their conduit does not 
disturb me. I'm headed that way myself.


There is a rhythm to the world
that most people tap out when 
their minds are floating elsewhere /
but I could never hear it / so all 

my life I've snapped my fingers 
as scattershot as a barking dog /
I've told myself lightning 
doesn't wait for the maestro's baton / 

a woodpecker strikes prestissimo 
or chooses not to strike at all / 
and I thought maybe I should treasure 
that liberty / but all it has brought me 

is a solo in an empty auditorium / 
my eyes closed so I can't see my own 
hands flailing / what I really want now / 
is to be dropped into the beat 

like I am reentering the world wearing 
the skin of a snare drum / so when 
the sun dawns adagio / I'm there 
to greet it / with perfect syncopation

The Resentment Box

Sure, go out for drinks with your friends 
I'm glad to see you enjoying yourself 
without me / meanwhile I'll be here 

knocking together another box /
I cut the boards, miter the corners, 
assemble it, apply a blood stain, 

then wedge it into my memories chest / 
we who incarcerate our hunger 
are carpenters but we don’t know when 

to stop / my therapist once claimed 
my confidences hate headlines much as 
fools hate time, not understanding mercy /

I never spoke to him again but my hands 
are riddled with splinters / when I die 
I'll leave you a book of matches / 

you know what to do
I've seen your boxes

Tom Barlow is an Ohio author of poetry, short stories and novels. His writings have appeared in  journals and anthologies including  PlainSongs, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, Aji,  The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at

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