Three Poems by Carol Barbour

Matera, Basilicata

Stony houses,
menace with jagged stairs,
rusty iron claws that break out,
far enough to scratch the skin.

Wild dogs race about,
fighting and leaping,
missing hair, rabid,
scrounging for food.

I dig through the ruins,
desperate to find substance,
tramping in the protean mist,
ecstatic remains.

Matera, the name
is scrawled on tufa caves.
Ancient graffiti and saints
co-mingle on white-washed film.

A niche
in a troglodytic time.
At eleven the lights go out,
and darkness completes itself.

In morning
a slice of light penetrates
the room, illuminating
the stucco walls of the cave.

Clinging on the mountain,
thousands of lemon trees,
yield to the light sheet
of winter.


A conundrum,
accursed, excluded to the end
which never comes.

Rehearsal for the bad news,
tragic portrayal of people
broken by metal.

Blood spill,
hard slap of a screen door,
a bullet flying through summer night.

Walking the residual streets
and parking lots,
without fear. Past work

which is no longer.
Made better,
in lieu of active duty.

It is enough
to build temporary shelters,
make speculative plans.

So much defense
against the enemy, fortifications
balance on fault lines.

Living, searching for meaning
in a world turned
upside down.

A time of confusion, litany,
splinter of light
between doors.

We slide under the spell,
place seeds under our tongues,
hatch a new organism.


Three keys: a fine silver wand, a brass cube,
a large skeleton.

These are the tools to access
a room in the monastery of San Gregorio.

Atop a hill, beyond an urban wood
above Circus Maximus.

The cloistered monks provide meals,
daycare and rooms to let.

Clean, so clean, sterile, no dust,
no TV, no phone or spouse.

Mosquitoes hide until night, a plug-in repellent,
the window open, a fan, no AC –

Sweat releasing warmth, moist dreams
of peace, dim light, pencil lines.

All day long walking until faint, later
horizontal plane, atropos.

Trains on strike. A meal
of objects in packets, from vending

machines transporting to the other end
of the line where the crowds diminish.

Opening the gate of San Gregorio,
entering the cloister of ochre and bone,

reading inscriptions on tombs,
the vow of silence redacted.


A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art, Carol Barbour’s poems are published by Canthius, Sein und Werden, The Fiddlehead, Transverse Journal, Lacewing, The Ekphrastic Review and the Toronto Quarterly. Her first full length collection of poems Infrangible is forthcoming from Guernica Editions in September 2018. She resides in Toronto, Canada.

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