Tina Barr: “‘Target with Plaster Casts,’ 1955”


The blue-black and yellow target: like scalped
rings lifted off the bodies of bumble bees.
A trapper sliced pelt skin from each
beaver. Beaten into hats, they made rich, John
Jacob Astor. Jasper Johns has taken their blood
color, mixed it with beeswax, laid four rings,
two yellow, two blue-black, with a black bruise,
a circle in his target’s center, a bull’s eye, though
all the bulls I know have lashes and flies.
Bumblebees carry pollen from goat willow,
lupine, gooseberries, apple; even their
colonies are collapsing. All the Continental
army, Washington’s men, died in cocked hats
made of beaver. On a shelf above Johns’
target, cubby-holes display painted plaster
casts: a red foot, orange ear, green penis.
A trapper cut off first the beaver’s feet,
then tail. A top hat is a symbol. Pride
still a danger because of the track
it leads down. Man-made drones buzz.
Bees fizz and hiss, like tiny burros,
cart sacs of pollen’s yellow pigments.

Tina Barr’s next book, Green Target, has won The Barrow Street Press Poetry Book Prize, judged by Patricia Spears Jones, and is forthcoming in Fall 2018. Her first book, The Gathering Eye (2015), won the Tupelo Press Editor’s Award. Barr’s awards also include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ucross Foundation, and others. Her poems have been published in American Book Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Louisiana Literature, New Orleans Review, Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, Hanging Loose, Shenandoah, and in anthologies.

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