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Photo by Don Rothman
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Barbara Bloom

Watching the Bats

Right at dusk
if you were at the far end of the house,
in my parents’ room,
suddenly they’d be there,
swooping in and out of the half moon openings
in the roof tiles.
I didn’t want my brother to know I was afraid,
so I’d stand there, at the picture window,
and watch with him.

Not birds,
but something closer to the dark
that was falling around the house
and in the house
—the dark of the family—
something I felt but could not name.

What I knew was there were places
behind the doors, where the shadows collected,
and at the uncurtained windows
the night pressed in, raw and unchecked.

The Limits of Anthropology

        for my mother

I have studied these notes, crowded into the squares
of giveaway feed store calendars from years past—
“Very hot. Washed windows on inside.” 
“Took walk down Sunlit Lane in a.m.”
“Sewed all day on K’s skirt.”

Like those artists’ reconstructions I used to pore over
in the National Geographic, where a piece of a wall,
a few bones or shards of pottery were enough
to get a vision of a whole city and how its citizens lived,
these notes suggest a life I long to fill in.

I want to ask, “What was it like to be you?”
Not just the cherry pies, the ironing, or canning the tomatoes,
but what it felt like to have that life.
I want to know what you were thinking as you polished the windows
with your light stroke, rubbing out the streaks.

Holding these fragments of your days in my hands now,
I think again of the anthropologists.
How could they figure out so much, given so little?
Those color drawings looked real, but were they just making it up,
hoping they’d gotten it right?  Or was it possible to know?

I want to say I miss you.

Thin Line: Listening to My Husband Practice Guitar

       “There’s a thin line that leads us
        and keeps a man from shame.”
              —Dougie McLean “This Love Will Carry”

I forgot there were knives.  But later,
after I’d written down the dream, I saw them plainly:
three large knives, unsheathed, on a table.  And the thought,
that I’m afraid to make real by saying,
He hurt me.  I could hurt him back.
before I turn away and walk back into the room
where my father is sitting, waiting for me.

He has a large splinter in his cheek.
I tell him I’ll take it out, but it might hurt.
When I pull it out, he says, That didn’t hurt at all,
boastfully, as a child might.  It has come out cleanly,
in one piece, and there is no blood.  We go outside, he and I:
waves have whipped up in the bay.
Whitecaps are piling up on the island.

“There’s fear out on the mountains,
there’s death out on the plain,” come the words of the song
in my husband’s familiar voice.

Something has been averted. The rooms of good and evil,
connected by such a short hallway,
under the same roof, so near.  I breathe in.  Let the wind
push hard against me. Lean into its power.
Let it blow this knowledge out of me.


Barbara Bloom

Barbara Bloom, now semi-retired from teaching English and creative writing at Cabrillo College, grew up on a remote coastal homestead in British Columbia, Canada, and eventually came to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC and never left.  She currently lives in the countryside outside Corralitos with her musician husband. Her first full-length collection of poems, On the Water Meridian, was published by Hummingbird Press in 2007.

Winter 2013

Peggy Townsend
Jill Wolfson

Arthur Streshly

Barbara Bloom
Lisa Ortiz
David Sullivan

Tribute to Don Rothman
read by Julie Minnis

FloodLight Feature
Stephen Kessler

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