James H Duncan

The red barn behind it


the small porch on the back of the house
the yard and the barn shaded blood red
in dark October’s pre-dawn light
the shovel standing upright in the garden
five in the morning with the cold tendrils
of autumn grass prickling feet
the phone ringing

she did it, I told him
she did it and I knew she would all along
knew she would take off her ring at the airport
knew she eyed herself in the morning mirror
with someone else in mind

she admitted it all

sleeping with strangers is easier
the more you do it—
the first time there is guilt
before, during, even after
a small consolation prize
but prizes fade and affairs of brevity
become knotted, photos taken off the walls
razors and shampoo hidden in closets
these things become noticed
nothing is an accident

“what is she doing now?”

walking forward, melting blades of morning grass
a cloud of breath and the red barn behind it

“she’s inside, sleeping”

“sleeping?”

“like a baby”



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