V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





My father has learned the terrible secret
of reading the splitting bark of winter
birch.  He'll sit for hours weaving the gummed strips
of its white veneer through his fingers
as if there was something there they had both
earned (like the dark claw marks he's always carried
inside).  Then the wine-sap bleeds from its throat

filled with language—slashed and fragmentary,

seeping into his cold meditation
like scenes he's trying to reclaim and curl
back.  And I sit hypnotized by the rhythm
of the paper trees that bend him, their translation
of the foothold he once had on the world,
peeling off the coarse shell, releasing his vision.

© by Barry Ballard


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