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Three Poems

Real Man Blues

The field of big-barrel barbeques
tried to be a churchyard the way
he once tried to lace me down

with lies. In the end, only one got
what they were after. And only
one of us sang, I got mean things 

on my mind. If even grits can suffer
then maybe the difference is in
what we remember: the buckshot

look in that waitress’s eyes the time
he snapped back my wrist like a play
in football, his body taut up over

a fried chicken meal. If I just learned
to keep my good trap shut. If I just
learned to love Jesus more. He moved

on the way dirt bloodies an old field
to a praying ground. His new girl
is a rag doll of rabbit bones. In church,

a couple tells her, It sure is a pleasure
to watch you two together. Sorry
for laughing—now that’s just mean.



Porch-Drinking Under the Light of the Supermoon

June bugs sling between pots of apple mint
and basil, their leaves lit in green tremors
curling around the wooden rail. A tomato plant
spurts in a Solo cup. Just beyond us, a feral
cat limps onto bright sidewalk. Last year
on this night, I held my grandfather’s hand
as his heart gave way, each breath rapt
in plastic tubing, halting from pump to rip
to the hushed beating of roach wings. How
do we track the pulse of strength or fear?
What lights are an illusion? What lights can
gutter or flare? More than anything, I don’t
want to be afraid to say I love you. Fermented
grape and kiwi in my sangria: I love you.
My friends, chain-smoking in their flip-flops:
I love you. And you, dear one: I know the way
you squint in the bathroom light and smile,
our hands messed in each other’s hair, the bright
tick-marks of your every scar. I love you.
I love you. You lift a hand to me, so intimate
a gesture, brushing an insect from my breast.


Anne Barngrover holds an MFA from Florida State and will be a PhD candidate in Poetry at the University of Missouri this fall.