Digigrams: Five Poems by Barbara Henning

Mar 21, 2016

—a fast walk—follow circles—around the park—a big hawk nest—mother gingko—look away—playground and basketball—melancholic clouds—if he gets his way—Hillary says—it will be bully Christmas in the Kremlin—just an excuse—to hawk steaks and wine—one hundred sheep—huddle in a circle—under a blue light—low and breathy—Daymé Arocena sings—you knew before—you knew before—what could have been— Avenue A to 7th Street—stand still—one hand over the other—over your heart—in Brussels—more than thirty pounds—of explosives—over the East River, a  full moon—

Apr 23, 2016

—along the Hudson river—children—on a merry go round—screaming and peddling—swivels and swoops—not quite enough rain—to say rain—CNN will stream—the so-called debate—a new digital device—for a rapid stream of single words—one after the other—a  red ferry glides back and forth—yellow cabs now and then—just past noon, the sun, a woman—in a brown coat strolling along—with notebook—stops, looks—under black sunglasses—jots down something—perhaps a poet—perhaps a journalist—in Arizona—or Michigan or Long Island—at a bully rally—Look dad!—says the little boy—snipers!—our American dream—a walled-in community—with smaller walled-in homes—as the jagged hills and walls—recede into the distance—in Battery Park—a little girl swings—back and forth—scooping up the air—

May 15, 2016

—when Tunick shoots a large group of naked people— no surprise—no news— standing in a kitchen—dreaming—Alter Rd near the Detroit River—naked, holding a kitchen towel over my crotch—the chubby new wife—in an apron—shocked—when oxygen is low—naked mole rats—flip a switch to survive—metabolic—now it’s her apartment—my body parts—I try to explain—cooking—she’s cooking—a one man militia in the bedroom—rushes through the hallway—angry —skedaddle out of there—then again—in the living room—just in time—to stumble down the aisle—he’s holding—something yellow—a flower—in a bombed hospital in Afghanistan—I’m dying—a doctor with one leg torn off—talks into a cell phone—take care of the children—from now on—to the men in the militia—we will call you Donald—

Dec 30, 2016

—“Tuck in youuuur bellieees”—sings the teacher—on Sunday night television—reenact history—the aristocracy and their servants—Bono says—capitalism is better a servant—than master—an abandoned boat—crossing the Mediterranean—crammed full—of migrants—capsized—the bully boasts—of  groping women—so many women care less—watch out—if you critique him, you’ll get sued—do the dishes—take a hot bath—the planet’s  hotter—this year—old racial hatreds—on a floating platform—beside melting glaciers—Mr. Einaudi plays piano—I calm myself—by reading Sebald—in some dreamy place between living and dying—take a walk along the park—scarf, hat, little flats—slow snow melting—on my shoulders—and the cement—young people—smoking—between one bar and another—I was once young, too—walking along this same block—sometimes smoking—on 7th Street—from Avenue A to B—waiting for Michael at the Horseshoe Bar—

Jan 4, 2017

—Queen Elizabeth to her guard—a momentary assassin—that’s quite all right—next time I’ll ring beforehand—so you don’t have to shoot me—in Cucina de Pese—reach into my bag for my cell—shoot—left it home—pick up a flier and write on the back—pen sliding over paper—no news, no texts—January 4, 1960—today is my mother’s death date—a voice at another table—I was 14 and my brother was nine when my mother died—even though we were in prep school—I looked after him—we went to public school—I was the babysitter—tastee bread and campbell bean sandwiches—56 years later—we vote for the bully—I put my face in my hands—contemplate breaking away—to woo voters—a gospel concert in Richmond—sponsored by the Koch brothers—hurray for the oil industry—when they pay—we dance and sing—

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

Five Poems by Barbara Henning

Mar 27, 2016

—rows of rear windows—pricey tenements—raindrops on shrubs—drips gliding off the fire escape—“Look!” says a boy on tv—“Real water!”—a dictator waves his hand—never would I—tarnish my own name—a silver necklace over Ganesh’s nose—I rub it shiny—a volcano in Alaska—a cloud of ash—more than seven miles upward—in Kansas—their house now a pile of bricks and ash—this locket—between my mother’s face—and my own toddler smile—his ashes won’t stay put—some on the table—my fingers grainy with a body—like fingernails—on the ground a clutter of acorn shells—the dream—like an albatross—pulling me into the pillow—

Aug 4, 2016

—the sun’s hot—a cool breeze off Lake superior—a path along the shore—peddling behind a woman—on a turquoise upright bike—a polluted sky—does not have—the advantage—of producing these atmospheric colors—a cuticle brittle and dull—every drop of water—hangs from a twig—sunflowers follow—the rising sun—up, over and westward—as I pass the turquoise bike—“I’m going slightly faster than you, dear”—by law—many mothers—are unable to pass on—their citizenship to their children—but for fathers—a different story—when a pass is made—four defenders charge—from the net—trying to block—the oncoming shot—a year later—a committee of American men—will meet to decide—the rights of women—the woman on the turquoise bike laughs—“Thanks,” she says, for letting me know—”

Jan 12, 2017

—damp and unseasonably warm—fast walking—an unscheduled bus—run back and hold my hands in prayer—he reopens!—zoom no traffic—Union Square Station—escalator broken—a woman with baby buggy—standing at the stairs—young man on cell phone—drooping pants—could you help her?—he looks at me—with scorn—then at her—she’s black—ok he takes her stroller down—over shoulder—he snarls at me—the way—throughout time—we have slaughtered each other—each death a negative charge of unbearable loss—through the human community—anger and retaliation—why then–do we believe—in so much possibility?—man begging on Dekalb—I give a dollar—as if—I’m doing something—stop and talk with Lewis—story about 1974—this and that anthology—a student said the NY School was sexist—I say all men are sexist—to some degree—subway to the village—a midrange buzz, distant whistle, relentless throb—

Mar 20, 2017

—even with banks of icy snow—alternate side parking—inside my radio ear— Russian hacking—with tiny hands—and a tiny brain—like the tyrannosaurs—ha ha—the bully had to develop something—an ability to lie and deny—even when myths are dispelled—their effects linger—it’s possible to hack into a phone—or a car—with only sound waves—tiny accelerometers—under the scholar’s trees—open an envelope—rent increase $200.00—google mania—first floor, no fee, rent stabilized—Brooklyn studio—quiet, tree-lined—a commuter—but I like living here—come on, Barbara—says the landlord—when you get older, you should move—we will never give you—a rent stabilized apartment—a commodity—a troublemaker brainiac—Tony Conrad—crooks his finger—come here—I’m gonna wreck your brain—a crack—in the cave—with ulnar nerve repaired—DeGrom’s back on the mound—a 97 miles per hour fastball—

Apr 28, 2017

— on Houston—a garden—with young people—smoking and snapping—an ex-coal worker—can’t breathe—wants his job back—coal ash arsenic mercury lead—in landfills and bodies of water—between Saturn and its innermost ring—the patter of a summer squall—then a drifting tone—in the branches—of a giant elm—the baby and me—fading—into flickering leaves—a Himalyan crevasse—the rock climber falls—he keeps climbing—into the subway station—a young woman—with two little ones in tow—talking on her cell—to hold a fossil—to clutch a fragment—thirty-five years—in this same spot—with Né and Mook—it’s raining today—and the baby is a man now—he drills a hole—in the ceiling—of my new apartment—for a plant—the leaves spilling over the pot—

 

 

Editor’s Note: These poems are part of Barbara Henning‘s in-progress series entitled DIGIGRAMS. Her digigrams have been published recently in Recluse, Chill and Rascal; others are forthcoming in the Brooklyn Rail, Downtown Brooklyn, Live Mag! and Local Knowledge. Another five of Henning’s digigrams, curated by Wren, will appear soon in PoetryCircle.

 

 

Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects andBlack Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com

 

Original photograph by Michah Saperstein.