Anne Barngrover is the author of Brazen Creature (University of Akron Press, 2018) and Yell Hound Blues (Shipwreckt Books, 2013) and co-author, with Avni Vyas, of the chapbook Candy in Our Brains (CutBank, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Ecotone, Crazyhorse, Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, and others. Anne earned her MFA from Florida State University and her PhD from University of Missouri. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Saint Leo University and lives in Tampa, Florida.
Mike Pence Refuses to Dine Alone with Other Women and I am Getting Flashbacks
The worst bar of my twenties doesn’t have a mirror and for that I will remain
forever grateful. It may not look it but it has taken a long time for men
to ebb from my poems. Motherfucker, look what you did now! It’s the same motion
all over again: at work I shuck staples from stacks of paper and the VP splits the tie.
At home in another lifetime I stir blank pasta as he claims the Bible would’ve been worse
if Jesus had loved a woman. Less holy. I’m less holy
though at night my bones glow in the dark an aquarium of sin. You think it’s hard
to have to wear a wedding ring while you carve red flanks into ragged mouths? Imagine
your hands limp and bloodless as flowers tethered to barbed wire.
I ache for a vine. He sends me an email— Oh! It’s the Pope’s letter to womankind.
But I can’t find medicine in a beautiful mystery. I don’t care that he doesn’t mean
beautiful in that way. Sometimes things get ugly when I’m too close and other times the ugly
from my past runs the country and no one believes me when I say
I’ve been here before. Is that advice you seek from me now? You want to learn
how to teach your daughters to be strong? My body remembers this America.
Ebb can mean to return with a net and a stake.
The worst bar of my thirties doesn’t have a mirror or if it did
(I have no answer for you to hear) it has already turned into the wall.
The Solar Eclipse Sends Me into a Panic at Eight Years Old and Again at Thirty-one
Still, I am trying to understand why
I’ve ignored those oysters of light
that wink among tree shadows
until they tremble in a strange tide.
The moon draws salt crescents on the sidewalk
as though a child, and I’m well-aware
that I can bum out everyone
around me with my initial read
of any crowd. I’m not here for good
vibes, though I’ve learned to keep
this to myself most of the time.
Sensitivity to lunar nodes is not a great way
to make friends, and I’m the one whose glands
ache from a hangnail or sty. But flowers close.
Spiders begin to undress their orbs,
hippos return to their night islands
and bees fly back to their hives (cows don’t
give a shit, true earth signs) and lemurs freeze
in their perches, so then why shouldn’t I?
Even Christ was born from a star and died
in celestial darkness—torn cloth, torn sky.
Why do I hear all the clocks ticking at once
while everyone else seems fine?
I am trying to understand the difference
between fear in the body and fear in the mind.
At a protest in Nashville, I held up a sign
that said Rise Up and a man
screamed at me, There are only two genders!
his face ecstatic as a split plum. I refuse to believe
that a fear of circles is the same
as a fear of holes. I felt sorry
for the violent binary of his life,
a breadth he’ll never recognize. It’s hard to admit
when I’m thirty-one that I’m still
eight and nine and ten inside.
But maybe my younger selves always lie
shingled in wait for me to gaze up and find
that delicate smile brimmed with blood.
This is real wonder of it all:
a primeval fear locked into my mind
unloosened by patterns, logic, or rhyme
that thrills me from my hiding place
out into a world of change.
How ancient my brain! How animal and alive!
All the Assholes I’ve Ever Known End Up at the Same Fourth of July Barbecue
Florida summer, rain thrashes one side
of the parking lot while the other side stays dry.
Lightning flickers a pale blue sky, and wind
provokes palm fronds to a slap-fight
though others merely sway, thick bouquets
of green garden rakes. I wish I could stop
wondering if the men I’ve known have
or haven’t changed. What makes me think
this matters? Once I fell asleep in the arms
of a man I loved, and within minutes I began
to scream. How does plot move that fast for you?
he asked, irritated, but I couldn’t find an answer.
With him, doctors warned me to slow down.
There was damage only a microscope could tell,
or maybe a telescope—planetary evidence
in my cells. Truth be told, I hate the bravado
of a barbecue, the charred sawdust smell
at Home Depot, handy work to plan and dread.
Fireworks are nothing to me but great,
gulping mouths. Their jaws unhinge, and throats
widen to jars, buckets, then wells. Even stars
can get swallowed whole. Be American,
dammit: the moon explodes for the finale
this time around! Each year needs to be louder
than the one before. The opposite of red,
white, and blue is a bleached animal spine
I come across in a field beside the road.
Sometimes we can map the past so clearly
we don’t need to wonder anymore:
a small body, car, then a bird of prey
that stripped flesh and fur, left only
what couldn’t be devoured. Call it simple
logic, call it cause and effect, how lately I bite
my own tongue to force myself awake,
not knowing if the pain comes from a dream
or is real till I put my finger to the blood.