Published Poetry: A Post Mostly for My Students

quiet-pond

My Creative Writing students sometimes ask to see my published poetry, and I usually wait until the end of the semester to show them any of my work.  I only sent out my poetry between the years of 2006-2008.  As soon as I started a new job at Tarrant County College, I put my own writing aside to focus on the building of a new, beautiful community college by the Trinity River and to work for the success of my students.  Here are a few of those poems.  These poems aren’t representative of some of my larger themes in my writing, but they are the ones that were chosen for publication.

COCKROACH BESIDE MY TOOTHBRUSH

There is meekness in the bow of your head

beneath your curved back,

but even humility and sensitivity

will not save you now.

Do you remember when you

raised your folded wings at right angles

from your abdomen, showing off

the white edgings of your thorax and wing pads?

You trembled for the mate you wanted,

and she looked back at you

as if the moon glowed from inside you.

You believed passion could last forever,

denying that all we have are flashes.

 

Still, you never imagined this ending—

an abandoned condo by a pond,

shadows extending like frail, human arms,

no food or even cereal crumbs in the kitchen,

and only my mint-flavored, disappointing toothbrush

hanging precariously near the edge of the sink.

 

How could you know that surveys

list you as the most despised creature on earth?

How could you possibly deduce

that the angry fall of a boot

he left behind would become

your last moment on earth?

@ 2002 by Tricia Barker

Published in Paterson Literary Review in 2008

crows

THE MAGIC OF CROWS

As the city lights begin to salt the hilltops,

a woman becomes restless; her head is full of the wit

of crows, and her fate is tangled in the act of finding

one of their feathers by her doorstep.  The feather feels light

in her hands, and she wonders which direction it might blow.

From her kitchen window, she observes how the crows

look like pieces of a ragged night scattered

across the final moments of the day.

 

They are the antithesis of stars, with a mystical sheen

of their own and wholly delighted to be crows as they

squawk into each other’s faces, slowly lift one foot into the air,

or dunk their ruffled heads into the dog’s bucket of water.

The woman wonders why her soup does not taste better,

why her skin does not greedily soak up the air around her,

and why these final days of summer do not burst

with the bruised pleasure of black lights, drumbeats,

and a new lover, smelling slightly of tobacco and amber,

a lover who might dip a small, velvety sumi brush

in honey, paint it on her body and then gently lick

it off while black wings flutter in the corner of her eye,

the shimmering, happy bodies of crows.

@ 2006 by Tricia Barker

Published in The Midwest Quarterly (Pittsburgh State University) in 2009

narcissusflower

NARCISSUS IN A RELATIONSHIP

When Narcissus left for work,

I would put on the sandals he wore

to feel closer to him.  My feet would soak up the remnants of the love

he had for his feet, his body,

and after a while, I realized

that in his mind

I was less important

than the ground he walked on.

@ 2006 by Tricia Barker

Published in Iodine Poetry Journal in 2008

The theme in this last poem is an important one for empaths.  Recently, I have discovered the work of breakthrough life coach Lisa A. Romano.  Empaths are often drawn to narcissists in many different capacities.  They can also be the target of sociopaths, so it is important for empaths to learn to protect themselves.  If you are interested in this topic, I highly suggest checking out some of Lisa A. Romano’s YouTube videos.

lotus

 

Images:  The painting of the pond can be found at this link.   I found the beautiful crows on Pinterest at this link.

Love Letter from God

stars

Dear Everyone,

I’m sorry for all the times you were not loved

by those around you. I’m sorry you were left alone

when all you wanted to do was to make people smile.

It is a shame that others didn’t want your silliness,

your goodness, and your sweetness.

They didn’t see that you were made in my image

and that you are a part of me, a part of God.

 

I’m sorry that you were born with a sensitivity

that should have been protected, a gorgeous sensitivity

that should have been cultivated and honored

but instead was sent harsh words, gaslighted, ignored,

degraded, and abused.  Your trusting nature and openness

was used against you time and time again,

but you met the world like an open flower,

full of love and sunshine. When you learned to close yourself off,

they called you damaged, as if you were

the one who did this to yourself.

 

I’m sorry that people were driven by jealousy, greed,

unchecked rage, fear, and other dark places in their minds.

I’m sorry that they lashed out at you without provocation.

You did nothing wrong.  I’m sorry for their torture

and all the moments afterwards that you carried

shock within you.  As much as I wanted to turn my face away

when people yelled at you, hit you, or otherwise abused you,

I stayed with you and observed everything.

I could never leave you.   I am the life that wants to live,

wants to continue no matter the amount of trauma.

When your world was turned to rubble by fire

and you had only a handful of food,

I was the hand and I was the food.

I was the bird in the sky that made you dream of flight.

 

When people hated you for your religion,

the way you worshiped, your politics,

the color of your skin, your gender, your sexual orientation,

your country, your home, your clothes, your accent, your IQ level,

your school, your car, your age, your optimism, your sadness,

I was never sorry to know you intimately.

I love you without reserve.

 

I’m glad you invited me in when no one else was there.

I’m amazed by your capacity for love and grateful

for all the times you sent swirling,

beautiful energy in my direction.

 

You are the love you give, not the love you receive from others.

I see the love you give and remember it.

This is all that I remember.

I want you to love yourself the way I love you–

exponentially always expanding, infinite in potential.

I love you and want to give you complete peace,

joy, wonder, grace, and a miraculous, triumphant life of love.

© 2016 by Tricia Barker

flower

I also made a video to accompany this letter from God.  For years, I have required students to pick images to accompany some of their writing or another person’s writing on a video presentation.  I enjoyed finally trying one myself.  Here it is!

Goddess Poems in Praise of Women:  Positivity to Combat the Insanity

  • Some of the links in this post might be triggering.

venus

Though I usually have plenty to say about the happenings in our world, I’ve gone silent for a while with the latest from Trump and his defenders.  We should live in a world where women are valued at the most basic level by all men.  I hate reminders that we don’t live in that world.  I create safe spaces.  I teach empathy.  This is what I do, and then I see overflowing hatred in our world and I’m shocked for a few moments.

Instead of focusing on those who are on the wrong side of history and fighting inevitable change and progress, I’ve spent some time revising more goddess poems in order to praise all that is lovely about women.  I want the divine feminine to be remembered by everyone.

Kelly Oxford:  I also want to send healing, and I want to honor the many women who bonded together on Twitter when Kelly Oxford posted a tweet about her first assault.  Millions of women contributed to the hashtag #notokay posting their own moments of assault.  They often had a difficult time picking one of many.  Here is a great example of a woman who spoke for the first time about the many times she has been assaulted.  I’m encouraged to read the many new authors tackling this subject.  However, it is overwhelming to see how many women have experienced this type of trauma.

Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine:  For now, I need to focus on all that is beautiful in humanity.  The divine feminine and divine masculine can be a part of our lives and encourage us to make wiser choices.  We can all access both divine masculine and divine feminine aspects of ourselves whether we are male or female.  There are men who are divinely guided, protective of others, and kind.  There are women who are in their power, responsive, and loving.  To honor and access the divine feminine, we only need to appreciate our senses, to feel our feelings, and listen to our intuition, and we need a safe world to express the gifts of the divine feminine fully. My hope is that the world will grow more beautiful and safer because of the ugliness that has been exposed lately.

We need more awakened men who support the divine feminine and are able to be of service to awakened women.   An awakened man never uses strength and force to dominate and knows to listen for a clear yes or no when it comes to sex.  An awakened man knows these boundaries and other  boundaries.  He knows that hurting others has nothing to do with masculinity.  Supporting, encouraging, and protecting the birthing process of ideas, inventions, companies, and people are a few key qualities of the divine masculine.

These poems are more than an escape for me.  They are a way to praise and remember the beauty of the divine feminine.

Venus, Rhiannon, and Danu: These three goddess poems celebrate goddesses, female choices in love, a connection to nature, and the wisdom of the divine feminine.  The first one was written a long while ago to show how these ancient goddesses show up at unexpected, beautiful moments in our lives today.

maine

Venus at Thunder Bay   

Moonlight scattered across the dark blue waves,

swelling, turning turquoise, breaking,

becoming foam the color of a seagull’s underbelly.

 

A woman, wearing a silver, flowing shift

sat meditating on a small cliff above us.

When she opened her eyes, she saw my lover

bend and spring across a ledge, agile as a deer.

Her smile widened with appreciation,

and she winked at me as she shook out

her long, Venusian curls.

 

I looked at my lover through her perspective,

noticing his balance and grace, the shiny lines

of energy flying out of the ends of his hair

and fingertips. I watched him and watched

the waves, knowing I would need to remember

this striking moment in a year of great love

as a safeguard against time, loss, and tragedy.

© 1995 by Tricia Barker

 

Here is a poem for all the women who loved horses long before they loved a man….

horse

Rhiannon Rides

Last week, I traded my Quarter horse

for a snow white Arabian mare.

She understands my dreams and desire for peaceful speed.

Each morning, I bury my head in her thick mane

and breathe in the beautiful scent around her velvet soft nostrils.

Then, we are off.

 

Nothing holds me back anymore.

The wind and my voice are the same.

My desires and the sunlight blend together

making my day wavy and psychedelic

without any undesirable side effects.

 

I don’t need another human being.

I don’t need anything other than sustenance

and to flow through illumined green pastures.

I would’ve been content without him.

 

There was always a him somewhere behind me

who I paid little attention.  I could’ve spent

my life alone, perfectly content with my horse,

my journeys, my books, and my Netflix queue.

 

Some people brag like this, but I mean this:

I wanted and needed no one, and that trait

has always made me irresistible.

 

I’ve watched girls fight over princes

and players and laughed at such foolishness.

What a waste of time to want someone who will

never want you back fully, someone who will be there part time

and let you down part time. I often wished I could grant women

a moment of how good it feels to treasure themselves

more than anything or anyone else.

 

The only real test for love is endurance, honesty, and stability.

When he chased me that was only part of the equation,

and when he asked me to open my heart to him,

I considered his words and actions.  He told me why he was worthy

in facts, unequivocal truths, and a steady gaze,

not a predatory gaze, just a gaze from a man

who was no longer a boy, no longer a young hopeful

wishing on stars and throwing coins in fountains,

no longer a silly romantic writing love letters

because he has nothing else to give.

 

He wasn’t a “I’ll give this a try kind of guy.”

His gaze said, “I’m a man who can deliver

a lifelong kind of love and want this with you.”

He didn’t say this with rhymes or with a bundle of imagery.

He said it directly and truthfully,

and for that, I stopped.

© 2010 by Tricia Barker

 

The Golden Eagle’s Tribute to Flowing Danu

From the eye of an eagle, a river

is healing force through the land,

a beautiful divider,

a reminder of the passage of time

and the constant change of life.

 

Beneath his sky filled journey,

the blue reflects the sun and all of life rests

in a bubble of beauty  called his eye.

 

The eagle knows the goddess as God.

He accepts her wisdom and all the wealth

she gives to those who seek her.

His heart doesn’t yearn for more.

 

With each beat, the young eagle is certain

of his connection to the light of the land

and the divine light beyond the land.

 

He knows there are no riddles to unravel,

no spells to learn,

no necessary witchcraft.

There is only oneness with the air, the sun, the earth,

and the river which fills his wingspan

with gratitude and love.

© 2014 by Tricia Barker

Three Goddess Poems: Wise Sarasvati, Persephone’s Darner, and Patient Euzulie

While working on my MFA, I went through a phase of writing about goddesses, insects, and the natural world.  “Persephone’s Darner” comes from that time period.  I returned to this theme throughout the years.  Tonight, I needed a break from the work of revising a novel and returned to my first love—poetry.

sara

Wise Sarasvati

Golden waves of light descend from the heavens

and fill my being.  You need only listen to be healed.

 

As a kind soul, you must protect your kind nature.

Mention a small difficulty in your life

and observe the reactions of others. Connect with those

who draw near you with empathy. Like butterflies,

dart quickly from harm but do so lightly,

knowing your essential nature can never be injured

and resides in a realm beyond the physical.

Learn whose beaming smiles are insincere,

whose compliments manipulate,

whose presence will drain your energy

or add to your life force.

 

Prepare for what is destined to be.  The notes of a symphony

will crescendo and fall in a universe made up of the love

inside of you. There is freedom in truth

and truth in a love that is free as wind blowing

across the earth, free as the spirit you will become

and fly into a space I have opened for you now.

© 2016 by Tricia Barker

persephone

Persephone’s Darner

Persephone is gone in the winter,

and Demeter blames herself,

refusing to eat.

The effort of movement

from the bathroom to the bedroom

is strenuous,

and all the Kamut flour

has gone to hell in her cabinets.

 

To love someone beyond control is torture.

 

Memories of her small, delicate

daughter replay in her mind

and in the ether.

 

Persephone’s light body bends and jumps

in a luminous meadow.

She is surrounded by friendly dragonflies

(Zigzag Darners, Spine-crowned Clubtails

Fine-lined Emeralds, Faded Pennants).

 

This child could be any child

with a step light and happy enough

to enter the world of wings.

 

When Hades stopped his truck beside her,

forcing her in and ending her childhood,

surely at least one Phantom Darner steeled his airy body

with dragon-like determination,

staying beside Persephone

as a witness,

strong enough to migrate

down to the underworld.

© 2000 by Tricia Barker

phantom-darner

Patient Euzulie

I’ve got time spent in luxury,

and I know how to wait pleasantly

for you to see what I have always known—

life is overflowing with sensual delights and blessings.

 

I know a guy named Sky who showed me the world,

and another whose emotions run deep as ocean waters.

However, I waited for a gift-giving hero who moved here

and rescued me from the boring, petty squabbling of others.

 

We live on an enchanted mountain, and we flirt and dance

by the light of the moon in June and every other month.

We text each other pieces of our red hearts and know

that the meaning will last long beyond the symbol.

 

I hardly remember the darkness,

separation, or pain, the nights when my heart

was a prison for a howling wolf.

I am the fire now.  I am love,

scorching love.

© 2011 by Tricia Barker

love

Poetry Break- “Poem (the spirit likes to dress up)” by Mary Oliver and one of mine

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I’ve always enjoyed Mary Oliver’s nature based themes and spiritual themes.  The last stanza of this poem with the lines, “…lights up the deep and wondrous/drownings of the body/like a star” is gorgeous.  I think of the spirit like that–this beautiful light that lives in form, much to its dismay at times.  The poem of mine is about finding love and peace in simple moments in nature.  Magic happens in the now.

Poem (the spirit likes to dress up)
 
The spirit
  likes to dress up like this:
   ten fingers,
   ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
  at night
   in the black branches,
     in the morning
 
in the blue branches
  of the world.
   It could float, of course,
     but would rather
 
plumb rough matter.
  Airy and shapeless thing,
   it needs
     the metaphor of the body,
 
lime and appetite,
  the oceanic fluids;
   it needs the body’s world,
     instinct

and imagination
  and the dark hug of time,
   sweetness
     and tangibility,
 
to be understood,
  to be more than pure light
   that burns
     where no one is —
 
so it enters us —
  in the morning
   shines from brute comfort
     like a stitch of lightning;
 
and at night
  lights up the deep and wondrous
   drownings of the body
     like a star.  
— by Mary Oliver

 

Dreamland

Give me guilt free days in an endless

dreamland of bright green fields—

wild alyssum and newly hatched monarchs

a few feet away from our heavy heads.

We’ll rest on a quilt my grandmother made

and tell each other a few stories from our lives.

Our kisses might lead somewhere later than night,

or not, but our ties to earth and heaven

will be loosened, long enough to breathe

out complicated molecules of our pasts

and create a glorious, enviable,

present tense life.

© 2012 by Tricia Barker

 

 

National Poetry Month and Other Reflections

rilke

National Poetry Month:  To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m posting “After the Wreck,” a poem published by the Binnacle in 2007 which is inspired from moments during my near death experience.  I’m also including a poem by Rilke from Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God which I adore.

Writing on Morphine:  I wanted to document my NDE as soon as I possibly could.  I stayed in ICU for a few days after surgery, but once I was moved to a hospital room, I asked for a pen and paper. My surgeon confirmed that I had died, but she didn’t feel inclined to talk about the spiritual experience with me.  The nurses were a bit more willing to listen to my experience but most seemed busy and hurried.  Some people only nodded and looked at me strangely when I wanted to talk about the powerful experience of being in God’s presence.

While in the hospital bed and hooked up to a morphine drip, my greatest fear was that I might forget those beautiful moments outside my body. The pain and disorientation made it difficult to write in a straight line, and the words bled down the page.  I persisted in the hope that a few lines would be salvageable and used later. The lines about the angels in this poem were lines I wrote days after the experience.

Memory:  To this day, I remember the vividness of the angels, the light, and the love from the divine intensely.  I’ve never forgotten the experience and the images.  What faded a bit were the direct messages given to me by light.  I remember a lot of what was communicated, but the information flowed into my spirit body so quickly that it was difficult to slow down the information and remember it as specific words.  Mainly, I knew that I had immediately and forever changed in that moment.

Outside of my body, I remember feeling slightly worried for my body as I looked down at the operating table, wondering if I would walk or run again.  The angels assured me that I would have complete healing.  In fact, they assisted in that healing, and my questions were answered not only with information but with demonstration.

Trauma and Forgetting the Beauty of the Light:  I have not forgotten the NDE in the way some dreams are forgotten, but there are times in life when the material world, when trauma, or when stress has overwhelmed me.  When overwhelmed and burdened by life, I can forget the beauty of that moment.  The memory though remains incredibly vivid.

Certainly, the actions of others have startled me, shocked me, and sometimes horrified me.  In my memoir, Healed, I write about being harassed by friend in a writer’s group, raped while living overseas, and beaten up by my first husband.  I thought my life after experiencing an NDE would be pure bliss, and I would live a protected, purely pleasurable life.  This was not my experience, and I wasn’t prepared to write about these traumatic moments until years later. Though I had greater moments of intuition after the NDE, I didn’t always know how to trust or use this intuition.  In those first years after the experience, I also had an almost child-like openness, trust, and belief in others and that trust sometimes put me in close contact with desperate people.

Service and Healing:  When I examine all my experiences together, these experiences sometimes seem like more than one person should have to endure.  However, I have survived and thrived, and I realize others have endured far worse events. Perhaps part of my legacy is to experience the horrors that many women have experienced and to report that what remains after harm has taken its best shot at me is light and hope.  I heard Matt Kahn say something similar about harm in his latest video, and this idea seems accurate to me.  What also remains after the harm is a deep desire to heal myself and to help others heal.  At certain times, I certainly forgot the light and its message.  At other times, I became angry at God on this journey, but I always came back to the belief that I should help others and should remind others of their connection to a loving, forgiving source.

Self-absorption and all too human wishes and desires vanish the moment I ask my students about their lives or when I am of service to others somewhere in this world.  There is no greater way to make the world a better place than to offer help or kindness.  We are freed of ourselves in those moments.  Who knew that freedom from the self would feel so wonderful?  It does though.

AFTER THE WRECK

How could I know that the world would have compassion

and that at the moment of impact my back would crack,

 

but I would retain the sensation of this body, first floating

away from it, then returning, silvered and open-mouthed

 

like a fish caught on the hook of a reoccurring dream,

struggling, flapping about, and jerked up to the surface

 

of a room full of florescence, tiny desires to survive

pulsing through my body in rivulets?

 

How could I know that the angels I recalled from paintings

would become bright, intelligent companions at the end of my bed

 

and that the torrential light from their eyes would answer my questions instantly?

How could I know that this peace would disintegrate like ice chips

 

in my mouth and this calming knowledge would drown in refills of morphine.

How could I know that I would forget specifics in the way we forget dreams?

—Tricia Barker

In these bodies, we are often anxious, but I love how Rilke reminds us that God is around us and in us from the beginning.  Certainly, the light on the other side of this life felt familiar. This light is the same light we have in our eyes as infants, and the same light that comes for us at the time of our death.

I am, You Anxious One

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break

into being at your touch?

My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.

Can’t you see me standing before you

cloaked in stillness?

Hasn’t my longing ripened in you

from the beginning

as fruit ripens on a branch?

 

I am the dream you are dreaming.

When you want to awaken, I am waiting.

I grow strong in the beauty you behold.

And with the silence of stars I enfold

your cities made by time.

–R.M. Rilke