The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2018

All Issues
FEB 2018 Issue



The Moon / Mar 13, 2016

—hang a dress—in the lobby—wrong size—for 2016—once twirled around—like a flower—on a highway—now on a hanger—in some other closet—reading Walter Benjamin—Berlin Childhood—what was and what might be—a shelter—the rhythm of the railway—ringing of a bell—a butterfly hovering—each passing moment—to gaze—to touch—as a child—the moon—out a Berlin window—High above the horizon—then a pale circle—in the afternoon sky—growing growing growing—until it sucks up—tears apart—people place—iron rails—like Krishna opening the veil—it was my farewell—Benjamin writes—“O star and flower, spirit and dress, love, grief, time and eternity!”—In 1938—this miniature deleted—perhaps, too much—the melancholic grip—start over—at the beginning—with childrenthe weight of the book—pressing against my chest—drift off— I collected what I wanted to take across—he writes—from then to now—


We Branch Out / Oct 17, 2016

for Barbara Catherine Spires                                                                       

—Amish—we were Mennonite—and French Canadian Catholic—nine to ten—in every family—pregnant women—easy to dominate—horizontally and vertically—we branch out—all related—tree trunks shatter—branches clutter—in the storm—on a boat from Europe—Nelly loses her children and husband—remarries—more children—works in a paper mill—her husband a fruit vender—when adversity hits—the birds chirp, squawk, tweet—their syrinx branching—into left and right lungs—in coal country—black lung disease—waiting for the Mennonites—with their vans and hammers—godmother, namesake—after the fire—your baby died—and you packed up and moved—another child, divorce, remarriage—men don’t do well alone—so they say—you liked casinos—now in Resthaven Memorial Park—Shawnee, Pottawtomie County—far from the coast—and Hurricane Matthew—where the waters rise waist-high—or the Seine—where Daubigny once converted a boat—into a floating studio—


No Matter What / Nov 29, 2016

—a brown oak leaf falls—on the windshield—of the M14 bus—catching in the corner—a woman—in a grey felt hat—leans against me—a Milwaukee man says he felt cornered—between two unlikeable options—when a monkey loses status—his immune system weakens—mortgage rates climb—ordinary people—pause to consider—house ownership—the elephant pivots—towards the donkey—around the corner we go— stocks in rally mode—wheels passing over—tangled ideology—more about psychology—the hormones in his brain—aren’t there anymore—the NYC mayor says—no matter what—the bully does—we ain’t changing—rising sea levels—are not an abstract concept—as the season shifts—so do—our molecules—it’s damp today—but unseasonably warm—the ice cap melting—soon Cassini will—shift orbit—sneaking closer—and closer—on September 15—at 8:07 am earth time—it’ll crash into Saturn—we’re all a little on edge now—waiting to see—what’ll happen next—


Woman With A Cane / Mar 29, 2017

—Second Avenue bus stop—at 50th Street—woman with a cane—points at a building across the way—“A lift once fell—from that building—and killed a pedestrian”—Another woman—tall under a big straw hat—says—“My name’s on a list—for an apartment there”—in Brownsville, Texas—trucks with loudspeakers—move slowly—through cane fields—“Anyone hiding—get out now—before the burn—no one will arrest you—just get out”—the tall woman—in a long coat—much too warm—for today—carries a black biker’s bag—bright red lip stick—rouge on her cheeks—I find a seat—beside a hunched over woman—messy uncombed blond hair—she laughs—nudges me with her elbow—like a female glass frog—sitting her eggs—nudge her—but she won’t budge—loudly, she says—“Look at her makeup! Ha ha”—looking at me—for confirmation—then she says it—again and again—“Leave her alone”—I whisper—day long humidity—grey skies—a renovated public bathroom—under stately London plane trees—pull the rope to signal stop—the woman in the hat stands up, too—stately posture—tall in her tattered coat—“Look at her makeup! Ha ha”—Outside at 14th street—a whiff of something long gone —slowly—we walk up Second Ave—


It All Depends / Apr 27, 2017

—the F crawls along—beside a wizened old woman—missing two front teeth—an old skull cap—big men's levis—full of holes—a shopping cart—no tax loopholes—spiral downward—she scowls at me, then apologizes—trains seem safer than the 80s—I say—depends on who you are—and where you are—true, true—so many changes—the crowded car listens—when I stand up—she stretches out her hand—I’m Bernice and I’m 62—I'm Barbara, 68—and I wonder—about her childhood—and then what?—if I have golfer’s elbow—medicare covers physical therapy—but the $20 co-pay—for some—a snorkel extends and bends like an elbow—with pointer finger—the gardener in Tompkins Square—pokes a small hole into the soil—I pick up my mail—at 144 7th Street—put keys on the counter—tear my name off the mailbox—no nostalgia allowed—F train home—nine stops—trees along 12th street in Brooklyn—light green, locust, elm, poplar, locust, gingko, maple, and two I don’t yet know—



Barbara Henning

Barbara Henning has several published novels and books of poetry, recently Digigram (United Artists 2020); forthcoming is Prompt Book: Experiments for Writing Poetry and Fiction (Spuyten Duyvil).


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2018

All Issues