Dustbowl Prophet

Wendy Barnes



Maybe you don’t know your own

ragged history, squawk and shards of glass.


Harridan, as if what you had hoped for

was a world in watercolor, tadpoles


and toadstools erupting across your dustbowl.

I am the prophet of your landscape.


I can tell you like the psalms,

am what upon the earth


could breathe your reckoning.

You’ve spread here like slag,


while the mudslides and lunar shifts

tick off the minutes, the wind


bites through your demons.

Maybe you don’t know your future


coils inside just one word.

The word is underbelly to the soul,


blooming kernel, come to fruit.

Maybe you don’t know deep in your pith,


but I can see the children

of your follies waving up,


circus tents a-flapping.

Woman, as you are,


tides won’t spring across your plain.

Roads crawl with weeds, a desert


is half eaten by its wolves.

Truth answers, opens


the windows, floods

your creek beds with its mercy.


If you listen in its wake,

your name will complete itself.


A ribbon/feather/trace

will flitter through the narrow


dusk into night’s tomb.

We are all strangers there.


Snake spines, fringe of music,

writhing roots, a cloudburst,


shatters of rain.

Come back to life.


I will wait. I’ll hold your hat,

as your soldier climbs forgiveness


to its peak, canceling out

the stakes.


You will rise toward me again,

tiny cells quenched, rushing matter.


The dustbowl bubbles,

one grain at a time.


Come away. Shake the dirt

from your eyes.


Always in the next town

there is singing.





Wendy Barnes' poems have appeared in journals such as Cargo (Paris), Faultline, and Painted Bride Quarterly. Her chapbook, So-Called Mettle, will be published by Finishing Line Press in December 2011.