Wallace Barker

Marital Rites

Upon arrival I took my handbag down
shouldered it and walked the plane aisle
loitering in the airport pigeons
mere birds
left shoeless by the baggage cart
midnight with the arrivals and departures screen flickering
waiting on a late night flight
we were both so tired.

Strangers, we were not embarrassed to be seen by one another
fully dressed trying to sleep
without blankets on an airport bench.

It was more intimate
than obvious encounters I felt
as if we had been married for years
and sleeping together this way.

Me with my socks on knees curled under
you with a purse for a pillow.

The Savior and the Saved

and if there were flowers in your hair when I arrived
I was too distracted to notice
your slender wrist
circled by a thin gold band

the landlord told me your rent was past due
you would soon be evicted
he was demanding recompense
as though I were your father
I gave him the $200 I had in my wallet
and he said you could stay until next Tuesday

natural light pouring in from the long windows
blazing hot afternoon outside but in the empty space
indoors the air was cool and a ceiling fan turned the breeze
there seemed to be no furniture
though you had been living there for years

thin cotton blouse against
your dark brown skin you thanked me
offered a lemonade and a shot of gin
nowhere to sit
I held the sweating glass tight
and felt dizzy from the alcohol rush

Madeline, it was the last thing I remember
tiny gray birds flitting past the bare windows
shock of white sunlight across the blond wood floor
your green eyes watching me drink
and though I had come to take you away from all this
it was you that redeemed me from the wasted avenues


Wallace Barker lives in Austin, Texas. He has degrees from Texas State University and the University of Texas and his work has previously appeared in the Persona literary journal. His influences include Wallace Stevens, James Tate, and Sylvia Plath.