Barbara Daniels

Nine Steps That Might Ease Despair

Let the sun tip a sea of blue
from the hood of your car
to your open eyes. Touch


the sticky needles of pitch pines.
Watch light fill the tree caught
as the sun slips from the sky.


Bring water from the river.
Let skin remember: you learned
to float, flutter kick, dive


from the low board and
jump from the high one. You
rode the warm lid of the river


as night rolled over you: clouds,
planets, smoking trails of falling stars.
Choose a chair that feels protected


and play the death game, electronic
distraction your friend’s children
taught you when she took months


to die, hospital bed parked
in her living room, red chair
for a guest. Lift your shoulders,


relax your back. Breathe.
Death is nightfall, afterimage,
silhouette cut from the clouds.


Five Women


You think you know who the woman is—the rabbi

who walks before day begins, praying for

her favorite professor, humming a simple song.


Or is she the woman released from jail?

She did her time and returned to us

crusted with salt, her knowledge held close


to her body. A third woman lies on a white bed

in a white bedroom, a washcloth pressed to

her eyes. She ticks through a rubric of sorrow.


You think you know the hero story—the damsel,

the crone. And as always, the unforgiving sky.

“How are you?” you call down a corridor


to a colleague. “Can’t get a man,” she answers.

Her feet are small in teal heels, ankles neat, hair

puffed and tinted. Who are the men who drive out


with her by day and back by day and then go home

to wives? The point is: Who are you? You wait

as the stray dog waits, unsure of whether to stay or go.


You and the dog are both muddied, both too tired

to be frantic. Apparently time is bending,

warping. Apparently it’s snowing in the hills.


Barbara Daniels’ latest book Talk to the Lioness is available from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Daniels’ poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. Barbara Daniels received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work appears on the internet at Panoply, A Literary Zine and The Apple Valley Review  as well as in other publications.
Her favorite sweets contain cranberries and apples.


 … return to Issue 12.3 Table of Contents.