Barbara Henning: 11 poems from Digigrams

  Barbara Henning

  11 poems from

  JPR 08

 On the Train / Nov 28, 2016

—on the Q train—to Manhattan—through the slit—between my eyelids—the almost empty car—two women dozing—one leans forward—her hair cropped—at ear level—maybe mid sixties—freckles—arms crossed—head bobbing—as the train jerks—“little brown bag”—on her lap—the other woman—one leg crossed—over the other—shoulder length—glistening black hair—leaning to the side—head against rail—dozing—trading relatively quiet today—as investors return—from Thanksgiving vacation—the car quiet—climbing over—the Manhattan bridge—behind the ropes and rails—the Brooklyn Bridge—some dark scattered clouds—the western sun—a golden hue—a six foot three inch—Justinian cross—lifted over the shrine—at the World Trade center—the young adults—brought here as children—will be sent back—to places they never knew—underground we go—the conductor says—this is Canal Street—Chinatown—the older woman—stands up—head still bowed—doors open—and then she’s gone

 Mid Jump / Jan 19, 2017

—frozen snow—on sidewalk, cars, trees—in the Times a photo of frolicking fish—frozen in a wall of water—mid-jump—a disappointed—80 year old scientist—in Anarctica—frozen and melting snow—time to hibernate—bundle up—Mama called me dear—our dear leader promised everyone health coverage—ha ha!—she called Dad, honey—then dearness left the scene—Daddy was a hunter—he loved Nixon—refracting bullets—detour in the 40th precinct—erratic—bounce—hey sweetie—where you going, honey bunch?—Do you have an internet connection—you may be able to stream this—adding another layer—to the already edgy sentiment—in DC never ending sirens—reds, light greens, blues—Elsa, the baroness skips along—a stream of edgy one word—one sound—telegrams to the world—

 Blink / May 10, 2017

—on the F train—two teens with pink lips—selfies-snap and scroll— I’m reading the Times—on my cell—a pink protestor—laughs—at the bully’s white man—an outright lie—hand-cuffed—for election disruption—the Ayatollah—vows a slap in the face—when the bully blinks—you-may-or-may-not—miss it—an old man—in denim overhauls—stares out the window—inside the tunnel—everyone scrolling—Kerouac’s typed 120-foot paper roll—now in a museum—a guy with a kindle—in front of his face—Derek Jeter’s face—now on a plaque—in the Bronx—Putin’s opposition—a splash of chemicals— now blind—Dr Kavner says—world wide problem—not blinking—staring into screens—spring models—with smudged eye make up—fashionable black rings—one pink-lipped girl—rests her face—on her friend’s shoulder—a guy passes through the car—do rag, sleeveless shirt—the pink lip girls open—a package of multicolored socks—neon green, pink, blue—and the train c-r-a-w-l-s toward Manhattan—

 How Are you? / May 11, 2017

—I80 in Pennsylvania—feathers flying—from a truck—my phone rings—your former—domestic partner—a dream—he had about me—how are you—feathers continue—to fly here and there—natural selection—sometimes loses control—could be—the consequence—of sexual desire—your home phone changed—and my wife—deleted all your texts—banned from flying—overhead—with a plum skirt—covered in black feathers—I speed up—well nothing’s here—one way or the other—fill-in-the-blank—I accelerate—pass the truck—small cages—crammed with live chickens—necks and legs—bound tightly—together—they can’t move—feet sticking out of openings—in cages—feathers everywhere—the speed you throw—the ball—affects the curve—on the way—around the mountain—with glassy eyes—as if it’s impossible—to acknowledge—our shared mortality—

 Ever Shifting / July 24, 2017

—on the F—a woman scrolls, swipes—and eats—bits of pastry—out of a brown bag—her round face—surrounded—by shoulder-length—greasy hair—behind me—a little boy to his friend—I’m scared of the president—that’s so sad—I say it out loud—I’m not afraid—the woman beside me says—I voted for him—do you regret it now?—Nope—some Mexicans held up my friend—now because of him—just because of him—352 Mexicans—have been removed—from Staten Island—and I’m happy—gone—swiped—away—mothers, fathers, children—some get off—some get on—a young man—in a tee-shirt and running shorts—stares into his cell—a man with a black beard—gold colored shawl—switches the screen—hundreds of Muslim men bowing—over his shoulder—I try to catch the name—of the Iman—over his shoulder—the ever-shifting—wall between us—one after another—we take the escalator—up and out—at Broadway Lafayette—scrolling through—our options—

 Phantom of the North / Apr 18, 2017

—a great grey owl—on a tree top—suddenly drops down—slyly hooks—a tiny creature—hiding—in a tunnel of snow—two feet deep—the bully’s education czar—signs her ok—on predatory 16 percent fees—for defaulted student loans—buried in the details—an administrative tweak—garnished social security checks—old age despair—for the Roman’s—an owl’s hoot—is a forecast of imminent death—two great horned owls—spotted today—in Prospect Park—whistle bark shriek scream hoot—for the bully, for his czar—whistle bark shriek scream hoot—stick a pin in a doll—damn—a twinge in my right elbow—dismantling and reassembling—boxes of books—up to Seventh Avenue—the old man—in the Szechwan restaurant—writes down #15—brings a #13—his daughter and son—scold him in Chinese—no snow today—albeit a cold April day—

 The Form of Light / Apr 29, 2017

—on the F train—I imagine—cutting a woman’s hair—revealing her face—reaching—into her bag—she takes out—a small bottle of brandy—takes a swig—less is not more—more is more—the oceans littered—with trillions—of tiny plastic particles—here and there—a red-flag warning—weighed—measured—the object—of their attention—poked scanned xray’d—the NFL won’t buy—a pig in a poke—at St Marks—Laurie Anderson tells—a story—with her violin—staying with an Amish couple—and a grandmother—who coerces—a little boy—into kissing her—when he doesn’t want to—a first lesson—Anderson says—in sex without—affection—the violin tips—turns—when a mushroom glows—energy is released—in the form of light—for ten minutes—then whoosh—gone—low-key—skullcap—no makeup—love her—and her violin—

 Me, Too / May 20, 2107

—rheumatic fever—turns the skin—yellow—a heart, scarred—as a girl—my mother says—soon you—will take my place—I wear her old stockings—dye my hair henna—like hers—smoke cigarettes—wear red lipstick—her fringed leather jacket—at 18—I paint our kitchen—yellow the color of her skin—when I press—my boyfriend’s shirts—I am standing at her ironing board—at the sewing machine—my foot is hers—pressing the pedal—there’s a murmur—in your heart—the doctor say—but soon it will heal—in the afternoon—I birth a child—walk down the hallway—in her turquoise bathrobe—at the zoo—an old orangutan locks—eyes with a young woman—breastfeeding a baby—yes, she nods, me, too—at 37—my two children sound asleep—and all of a sudden—I wake up—surprised to be alive—what about—all the others—I think—the motherless migrants—the refugees—the cumulative wound—rooms full—of murmuring—and whispering—remember me—take care of them—take care of you—

 Up, Over and Away/ Aug 25, 2017

—the bully gives—bankers—free rein—on our retirements—under the Manhattan Bridge—we climb upward—clam shells—welded into the wall—the Q train roars—overhead—give me a rock—give me a wall—the bully has a tantrum—we scurry—for pennies—half way up, halfway down—halfway up—hoist a leg out this way—the other—say talaq—three times—a man—gets an instant divorce— Build a wall!—Lock her up!—the credit calculated—roar and paw—the ground—ladies—here you are—use anything —knife or stick—merely a fence—the clam shells—uneven—our spines—do not like—uneven—three times up—three times down—the next day—shape-shifting—the pavement cracked and uneven— we fence him in—a deserved comeuppance—the crowd roars—as the moon passes—over the wall—over the sun—one limb lifting at a time—we calculate—the distance—

 In a Six Minute Stretch / Nov 3, 2017

—the Knicks lose the ball—ten times—the bully’s hair—blows up and out—in the wind—revealing—an empty space—cut, cut, cut—Seth Meyers cries—to the hidden director—off to the East Village—for a haircut—liven up a dull green salad—with something distinctive—on Seventh Street—my old super Peter—hugs me—shakes his head—new people—they come and go—rents too high—thousands homeless in PR—two hurricanes—and not on the GOP’s list—of worthy ones—to better protect—bikers and pedestrians—from angry truck drivers—new concrete barriers—how I miss—the smooth and flat ride—across town—passing friends on the street—oh forget it—the ever shifting—everything—off to the store—for a psong chair—like my ex had—can’t have him—have the chair—ha ha—you might want to consider—a hot tea—or a jacket—with the wind—it could feel like 39—lean back—in my new chair—working on a poem—then watch a crime show—tragic loss—and the inevitable solution—yellow leaves—on the ground—and the sun so bright—it’s almost blinding—

 Private Eye / Nov 6, 2017

—new lessons for cab drivers—in Karachi—don’t look at a woman—in your rear view mirror—don’t say anything—about her clothes—don’t ask—if she’s married—the exact script—of rickshaw drivers—in Mysore—to a younger me—now through a green tunnel—of trees on twelfth street—I walk to the car—turn on the radio—69 and my eyesight a little blurry—what to do—an 18 year old girl—testifies—the detective’s partner watched—in the rear view mirror—guilty of wearing—a nipple ring— then his turn—keep your mouth shut—they said—in the women’s bathroom—my head hurts—coughing so hard—I could burst—a brain vessel—Nick Buoniconti’ll donate—his brain—to science—they buy and sell—footballers—the brains typically—come by fed ex—Dr. Vogel expects Paddock’s brain—any day—why did he—shoot—all those people—Robert E Lee—says General Kelly—was honorable—men and women—of good faith—on both sides—even those—who owned and sold human lives—as hedge funds—monetized—securitized—leveraged—multiple times—then a good cotton and sugar season—in 1837—the banks collapsed—don’t say a word—shut your mouth—a tax cut—millions of dollars—for the most privileged—I slam on the brakes—and just miss—a cyclist swerving—into his cell phone—

US poet Barbara Henning, photo by Michah Saperstein.

Born in Detroit, Barbara Henning has lived in New York since 1983, teaching predominantly for Long Island University. She is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other publications include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published four novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects, Black Lace, and Just Like That. She is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins.


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