Three Poems

by Daniel Barnum



snow fell heaviest it had in one hundred
and eleven years. the day

was still. the day was still the day. you will
feel one hundred and eleven

fears or more—count on simple rhymes to sort
this out, to distract you from

country as abstract concept, to make it make
more sense. the whole white

city wonders what is going on and you have
no explanation, no way to answer

with a word that means home in any language
other than your own. though,

that too is wrong. we can chart how many
disregard your claim to existence.

you can keep the world now, I no longer want
it. scratch that; I take it back.

when everything gets bad, goes wrong, you learn
to giggle at the devil, how it’s hardest

to stay gentle. you knew before anybody asked.
so: here you are, you are not there

now. you know you never will be. remember
what you meant once? I thought

not. snow loses the landscape, leaves
it easy to forget.      


The Honey Moon

heading home early evening
an idiot kid on a skateboard
whose face I never see clearly
hails me from across the street
hey are you a jew faggot
and then a few seconds and half
a block later heil hitler
matthew yells at him to fuck
off the boy only laughs back
at both of us to some silent
other guy astride a bike
I hadn’t noticed beside
him at first it takes me out
of myself instinct says smile
it off it seems brutal but not
unbelievable every bit is truth
even if easy material it’s still
a wound I wonder what gave
me away this time what told
the way I walk or breathe
or how quiet I keep the dumb
ones always guess aloud
or already know how
to read my whole body
and being like a word means
without meaning to really


Atomic Clock

no duh, sunsets are beautiful, even
more so how chemicals striate the light
and atomize through atmosphere. orange,
pink, and purple like acid easter stripes:

fumes from cars and the power plant filter
out diffused to safe parts per million. day-
time, you can track where clouds come, color-
less, out of smokestacks in climbs of mirage

against the sky. we’re far away enough
from everywhere to misidentify
the stars, mix up a belt with betelgeuse.
in moonless dark the river’s black slough

shore specters white mist over its surface—
light galaxies-old caught as fog, made mist.


Daniel Barnum is a writer and translator based in Philadelphia. He has received fellowships from the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets and the Summer Literary Seminars. His work appears in or is forthcoming from Ninth Letter, Lullwater Review, The Matador Review, and The White Elephant.  Find him here: