Wendy Barker


                                    –April 2020

All these patterns in my hardwood

floors, curl and swoop of the grains,

sporadic umber circles interrupting

the parallel lines of the boards. Before

sheltering inside for a month, I’d head

straight for the kitchen or bathroom,

not even glancing down at the oak’s

polish. Today I’m staring at the nodes

and knurls in these planks, learning

that knots are formed from branches

that died. Some of these resemble

the pockmark on my left arm from

childhood’s smallpox vaccination.

Now they remind me of the spherical

shape of the virus forcing us to

stay home. Tens of thousands already

dead. Covid lacerates the lungs, air

sacs plugged with fluid. When I look

into my yard, oak leaves fluttering,

I remember: Trees are the planet’s

lungs, breathing out oxygen, moisture,

swelling rain clouds that feed us all.

I glance down again at my own floor,

its planks sawn from trees once

living. No surprise these knots don’t

remind me of rose buds or pearls,

but blisters, scars. And accusing eyes.

WENDY BARKER’s seventh collection of poems is Gloss (Saint Julian Press, 2020.) Her sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time (BkMk Press, 2015), won the John Ciardi Prize. She has also published five chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2013. She teaches at UT San Antonio.