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The Old Barn & Movie Night

by Terri Kirby Erickson

 

The Old Barn

So cold, you can see your breath in the old
barn, and sunlight slips through the narrow
spaces between slats. Spiders have looped
their sticky webs like makeshift curtains
around the dirt-smudged windows and the
air smells of cow dung and hay, both scents
hoof-stamped so deep into the floorboards,
nothing short of burning will get them out.
But it is peaceful here, among the ghosts
of livestock past, behind the house with its
caved-in roof and cramped, mouse-infested
rooms for which the word abandoned comes
to mind. But nothing says defeat in the barn.
It was built to last and it has lasted. Listen
and you will hear the echoes of well-fed cattle
lowing, the purr of a milk-whiskered barn cat,
the footsteps of a farmer’s wife, the squeak
of her metal pail. The heart of this home was
here and it goes on beating when all else has
failed, when the money is gone and the family
has long since moved away. The fields may
be fallow, the ruts in the road beaten down by
cars that pass by rather than turn in, but the
barn remains, sturdy as the day it was raised,
doors open like a mother’s welcoming arms.

 

Movie Night

Fresh from our baths and clean as a pair
of brand-new whistles, my brother and I,
dressed in cotton snap-top pajamas, rolled
around the backseat of the family station
wagon like a couple of aggies all the way
to the Winston-Salem Drive-In. Nobody
wore seatbelts in the sixties and besides,
it wasn’t long before the asphalt-flavored,
summer-singed freeway air yielded to the
scent of dry grass, fry grease, and dime
store perfumes favored by teenaged girls.
Their tan shoulders seemed permanently
bowed by the heavy, muscle-bound arms
of slick-haired, chain-smoking boys filling
their daddys’ Dodge Darts, Ford Fairlanes,
and Plymouth Furies with enough smoke
to preserve a side of beef. But all we cared
about—once our father attached that silver,
static-spitting speaker to the driver’s-side
window and Mom handed out treats from
home—was what happened on the screen
where giant heads, surrounded by stars,
moved their lips to the hiss and pop of dis-
embodied voices ricocheting around our
car like ghosts, looking for something lost.

 

North Carolina native Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of five collections of poetry, including her latest book, Becoming the Blue Heron (Press 53). Her work has appeared in American Life in Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, North Carolina Literary Review, storySouth, The Christian Century, The Sun Magazine, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review and numerous others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award.

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