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Fall 2006, Volume 23.1


Barry BallardPhoto of Barry Ballard.

Barry Ballard’s poetry has most recently appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Connecticut Review, The Apalachee Review, and Puerto del Sol. His most recent collection is Plowing To The End of the Road (Finishing Line Press, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize). He writes from Burleson, Texas.

See other poetry by Barry Ballard published in Weber StudiesVol. 18.1  and Vol. 21.1.


The Given

Concerning Brightman’s bold hypothesis
for the "Given" that you’ve always carried
crumpled up like wax paper in the mis-
fortune hiding in the mind. The thick green reeds
of it still grow in that water circling the pit
of the brain. But there’s no escape for those days
when you say, "Life should be beautiful" (and it
isn’t). Where are we when the heart fades

and finally stalls and that same wax surface
bears our own bootprint, or the print of someone
we love? No simple explaining away
of grief standing over its grave, or the fist
of loose earth dropping on the casket’s drum-
like skin, or the granite’s cold chiseled name.


The Soldier, The Man, The Sparrow

As the world shattered after returning
torn from a pointless war, I drank the last
landscapes that I remembered till they halved
themselves and poured out their meanings, the learning,
the thatch and rustling shrill that I always
kept stored. I recited my slow drunken
casualty of words among the jaw-like stems
and leaves falling, always falling, like blades

cutting through the ash and pulp of our soft
deepening grave. And I descended as if I’d
folded all my hope like the dull wings
of a common sparrow, sometimes silent,
sometimes flapping in a muffled whir inside
my chest, reminding me how much a year could cost.



There can be no thought of finishing, for "aiming at the stars" … is a problem to occupy generations, so that no matter how much progress one makes, there is always the thrill of just beginning.
                                                                                                               —Robert H. Goddard

Even when migration is a possibility,
there will be those who simply say, "I’ll stay
and risk freezing with our history. I’ll spade
our common grave, light our candles, start the least
intrusive of our songs: the waterfall
mixing all our past kisses in its rising
mist." They’ll give up the dream of humanizing
the objects in telescopes, the curled shawl

of nebula birthing its bright new stars. And we’ll
leave them as the last wet oil of who we
are begins to harden, as the past is all
but framed for another visitor to seal
our carbon-dated lives, the white grain chalk
of our permanence—already loosening.


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