Three poems by Anne Barngrover

Anne Barngrover

Anne Barngrover

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 EcotoneCrazyhorseCopper NickelIndiana 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.