Because There Is a Snowstorm

I see that I live like a flake of snow 

Symmetrical arrows point away from the center,

Scatter and disperse my focus.

I tumble through air in fragile confusion.


This I must remember:

This frozen drop of water

Was once submerged in prehistory’s floes.

A snowflake drifts alone for a time

But always returns to the torrent.


There is a river before and behind me.

It holds me up if I lay back and float.

The Day After

It’s too soon to write a poem

about the way the waves sounded different

and I leapt from bed, pierced to the heart by the knowledge

that this was the first day of the rest of the days forever different.

It’s too soon to confess I stole your red plaid shirt

simply because I couldn’t bear to let the frayed fabric

hang limply on an abandoned hanger.

It’s too soon to listen for you

in the music you breathed like oxygen;

to hear your thick gentle fingers

stumble with reverence through Mozart or Beethoven

as I play the piano, two hands alone.

It’s too soon to tell the tale

of how I watched a loon dive and swim in the rising sun’s gaze.

And how, just as I turned to leave, it called out and halted me.

How I wanted it to be you, sending a sign from wherever you are.

It’s too soon to be comforted

by cognizance that any loon’s call

is a message from what will always be your world,

no matter how altered its landscape.

It’s too soon.

(for my father, October 23, 1995)

In Reflection

Florescent lights glaring back

reflected like so many molars,

her green dress doubled,

she lovingly wipes the cold glass wall

gleamingly clean.



Her supplies are heavy in her paper bag;

she walks at a tilt from the weight.

But cleaning the mirror she is agile and caressing,

sliding her rag over perfect smoothness,

gently touching herself in the reflection —



the mother she has been missing all these years.



© Barbara Burt


The Art of Marriage

for Dick and Katrina


You have chosen the canvas,

stretched and bleached, with

shadowy outlines sketched

in charcoal;

now you must paint.


In watercolors, perhaps,

with the delicate hint of the brush.

Or in the rough texture and

clear scent of oils.

But go slowly, choose carefully,

there’s no rush to get it down.


You will paint over

and over

and despair for not learning.

Learning, finally,

that the art of working at it


the work of art.




© Barbara Burt


I Cannot Wake

I cannot wake at four a.m.

I’d rather lose myself in longer dreams

that know to use their morning share.

The birds asleep, their silence fills the air.

It must have been the omelet,

a garish oozing yellow folded like a sheet,

that drove me to absurd dispair.

Or perhaps it was the waitress’s lack of care.

I bend myself to your direction

with no regrets, or few that I can think of.

Bending causes change; I must beware —

You would not like to wake and find a different lover there.

© Barbara Burt


Cold Feet

When the maple wore its mantilla of white ice-lace

and the snow annulled all the bumps and holes in the yard,

she decided to leave him.

She snuck out from under the comforter —

he was snoring,

and she wore no slippers.

Suddenly, while standing barefoot in the middle of the kitchen,

the moonlight caught her.

The glare of its light accused her.

And she could not ignore

the hard cold fact of linoleum.


So that is why she was there when he woke up

and asked why her feet were so cold.



© Barbara Burt



Every month has its sun —

March’s lies.

It glows early like a robin’s morning,

yet the wind slices cruelly.

It gleams on the river as if seen from sailboats

and warms bare pavement awaiting marbles,

yet the missing green

is freezing still.

I have no quarrel with the cold steel

of January’s sun

or the steam oven of July’s.

But I’ll never again believe

in March’s lies.



© Barbara Burt


A Change in the Winds

We’ve torn the shrouds of plastic

from the window beside the bed.

I lie still and follow the shadows of birds

across the white glare of the wall outside;

I lie on this bed and hear the kiss of softball to leather

and the gentle coaching of the man next door.

We will leave this place soon, I know that.

Tonight we’ll crate our belongings,

betray our sofa for its weight,

the bed mattress for its lumps.

Will I ever be forgiven my desertion of these

and living things?

Will I ever forgive myself, leaving,

so full of whispered promises

and abandoned starts?



© Barbara Burt


Outside the Lines

When young, we dream of growing within perfect lines.

I ended up with my father’s hands:

broad palms, stubby fingers.

His hands are strong and honest, yet,

even now, in restaurants with strangers,

I hide mine beneath the table.

I can’t see black without imagining red or blue;

I don’t believe in white without yellow or gray.

My mother’s hands are slender,

and she is almost six feet tall.

I am shorter, my grandmothers’ heir.

Like pictures from the coloring book of a three-year-old,

our faces are mottled, with scribbled lines bleeding

out to the space around us.


[© Barbara Burt; unpublished]

Vehicle of Suicide

Each stranded tree is so solitary, so alone,

I long to join it, aim for its

arm-like branches,

imagining obliteration.

But at that instant of decision, I remember

the corpse of some child’s beloved dog

or a wounded pedestrian, pale and blanketed on the sidewalk.

I remember my shock at exploding windshield,

my blood on the front seat,

my ceaseless trembling.

I am afraid of not dying, this time,

and beg myself to follow the gray stream north,

terrified of my own sabotage.


[© Barbara Burt; unpublished]