HomeSouthern VoiceTwo Poems by Sam Barbee

Two Poems by Sam Barbee


Our Family Bible revives the dead.
All once broken, now repaired.
Scribbled or printed names
pressed into solemn luxury
like a keepsake September leaf.

Each displayed simply:
seamstress or muscle man,
the scholar, and family fisherman,
all titles and nicknames resound.
I salute the reborn, the reanimated,

again careening from the black
cover trimmed in scuffed gold.
All haggard edges smoothed,
retooled soft. Old time religion
assimilates these chosen. Petition

Uncle Wally for football tickets,
and rejoice Aunt Josie’s alto
with her choir’s Easter hymn.
Each pardoned like genies
loosed from a convex bottle

to solve raveled conversations,
shared prayers for resolution.
A storybook second chance
with a mishandled moment.
I abide docile lights and darks,

but yearn purer flint to rejuvenate
leaded panes and refract the day
into vibrant stained glass to charm us.
Live in sashes of enchantment when
my fleshed-out world falls short.

Heat Lightning

First clap! Neighborhood hounds yelp. Thunder scatters tomcats. Fatigued housewives
scramble to yank clean linen from clotheslines. Pins snap, spring into soft grass. Sun-shower
blasts us mid-inning. In late afternoon, or early evening, never choosey when it splits clouds,
scuttles sporty efforts across our ball diamond’s irregular geometry. Stampede to a cypress’s low
canopy, our girls too: winking with first efforts of makeup, some let us kiss them, rub flat chests.

Gingham dress, auburn tress, her lips wiped with sterile gloss, fresh and free with choice,
heels scuffed, dull where specters stagger, ruby-red halo backlit by streetlamps.

Feet dusty from pounding asphalt, an end arises with inception: scarlet fruits ripen,
rip across enhanced eyes, tongue hollowing a lulled mouth eager for caroling.

She lives without begrudge, engaged by spirits, blemished images withering
desperate on a mattress, where dispassion’s stains glare, tallied.

Elements overlap in the vanity mirror as leaden sweat cleanses ugly verses:
finding only the stars to love, only scarlet rouge to blame.

Rainshower freshness − fragrant, pure, and holy − drifts over our teenage sweat, ballfield silt in
our hair. Azaleas, white and red, perk up, jaws open wide for cleansing, from their humid day
alluring bees. Early moon, soft outline ornaments, excuses the cooling-down deluge. We break
away from their embrace. Those lenient hands, and sleeveless shirts. Birds flush from branches.
The girls mount pastel bikes and pedal away as we strip gleaming wrappers off stiff pink gum.

Sam Barbee’s poems have appeared in Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Potato Eyes, Georgia Journal, Main Street Rag, and Pembroke Magazine, including the online journals Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection, and The Blue Hour. His second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a Roanoke-Chowan Award nominee for one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He was awarded an Emerging Artist’s Grant from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection, Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press). He received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch” and is a Pushcart nominee. Barbee lives in Winston-Salem with his wife and is the president of the NC Poetry Society. Read his previous poems in Deep South here.

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