Poetry

Quadratic

Steve Barbaro

1.
So with the thickly throaty, curt finality of a deity
you insist you must sleep upon the lawn,
this May night, upon the residential lawn, that lawn banally
clipped to match the broader sprawl, yeah,
this May night where you insist as such & do so, must
do so, only to wake in the dark to know that the gods exist,
the gods must exist, but in the very way your sleep gets lost upon the lawn.

2.
Or this August night where you insist you can’t not
gaze upon the street, the traffc-heady street not far from
home, & where usually goes a parade of, well, such & such . . .
& not to be antisocial, of course, or a misanthrope, it’s only that
the way you insist you must stare upon the street,
after midnight, & when the street’s deserted, or largely so,
only compels you toward the absent traffc, the not-there sirens & fumes,
behind which the gods must lurk like a kind of smoke beyond smoke.

3.
But why don’t you get to actually ever, like, glimpse
the gods? Or why can’t you ever, like, hear their
steps? Could it be because their sense of space
is maybe a sense of space seething across itself at your
expense? I mean something using your lump
sum waywardness discretely, but still hoarding that waywardness,
as if that waywardness might be their evasiveness’s very engine?

4.
So with the draft-drifty, sprawly chitchat of a non-deity
you insist you must deny the very existence of gods,
this November night, & in the cozy space of your home, yeah,
your home that simulates a world absolutely & completely
your own, & your own so much that that space
drunken with your god-toward guffawing becomes
a space so dense with your you-ness as to coerce the now
here now of the very thing you are proclaiming is gone.

Steve Barbaro is a writer whose poems have appeared in The Common, New American Writing, Web Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, and Denver Quarterly.
Originally published:
November 1, 2017

Featured

Essays

Race Off

The fantasy of race transformation
Namwali Serpell

Essays

Suicide in Fiction, Reconsidered

Why we need stories about living after a suicide attempt
Morgan Thomas

Conversations

Discipline and Abolish

Writing, power, and mass incarceration
Rachel Kushner,
Caleb Smith

You Might Also Like


Poetry

Mansplaining Oracle

Caki Wilkinson

Pandemic Files

Trading Riffs to Slay Monsters

From a new collaboration on life under COVID-19
Yusef Komunyakaa,
Laren McClung

Subscribe

Become a subscriber to get four beautiful issues a year for just $49—and help keep print culture alive.
Subscribe