Bio: Joan Baranow is the author of In the Next Life, Living Apart, and two poetry chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, Poetry East, JAMA, and elsewhere. She founded and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA program in Creative Writing at Dominican University of CA. With her husband David Watts she produced the PBS documentary Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine. Her feature-length documentary, The Time We Have, presents an intimate portrait of a teenager facing terminal illness.
It’s due dates and tin snipsleft in the rain,an air to the chill, sourgrass slumped over,trees sending mycorrhizalmessages undergroundlike teenagers vibratingunder their clothes,thirty-nine trillion microbesat last count crawling througha commuter jammed in,Starbucks cup miraculously upright.It’s pig brain cellsbrought back from the deaddespite the no confidence vote.You might as well get up,velcro your shoes, the moonis gibbous, which meansbig ass falling backwardsor at least that’s what it saidon the test. The cats are gladto lay their soft slabacross your chest, even thoughyou feed them only dry food.Love can be close uplike sirens in the middle of the day,sandwich at your mouth,or can jump in a spooky wayacross time zones, 3am here, 5 there,which means he’s still asleep, the coffeenot brewed, the dog’s leash slack,the woman he loves a warm wedgein his bed. We make our own bedsis something they say, thoughmost of life comes at youwhile scrambling eggs in the pan,trying to remember the last thingyour mother said on the phonealone in the swollen roombefore she lay down for good.
First a sideways lookfrom female hieroglyphsbecause researchers on theirdusty knees said so. Yearsreproducing her voice and stillthey can’t get the chords right,insisting on safety & peace, as if.Then the women rose upwith their nailed shut conceptsabout Nature, et. al.They carried crushed iconsinto the streets. Consequently,the economy was pleased.Economy smiled upon them,said, Come into my mansion.Down the cinder block hallshung with clogged clocks,I mean, blocked cubesand not in an Egyptian kind of way.Not like a cave where at leastyou can lick the walls. Instead,it’s Facetime, creased collars,CrossFit & content marketing.Women are gladto have their time punchedunder the orchid bannerthat’s tattered & torn.Yet the wet laundry gets hung.Some babies get born.
Is the soul sad to see the body die,unwilling to let go, like a sea creatureslow to unwrap its clasp?Does the soul look back, gatheringits spirit as a girl gathers her skirt?Does it watch with grief the skinblanch, then blue, then stiffen?Must the soul call to far parts of the body,a mother bringing her children in?Does she wait at the door as each oneruns home? Does the soul thenrise, remembering the fleshas a bridal dress, laid in tissue and boxed,never to be worn again?Does the soul keen at this, or keep a stoic front?Or does it disperse like breathinto the universe? Does it forget?