Tom Barlow


Cruising alone on a cloudy Saturday night,

I pass the farm my ancestor Jacob Noftsinger

stole from the Sioux on the banks of the Tuscarawas.


I'm trying to outrun my own black clouds

when Jacobs's shade slips into the car

and settles onto the passenger seat.

I warn him I have no destination tonight, 

just elsewhere. He nods, tells me he used to 

boat down the river on a Saturday night 

and fish for bullheads, hoping none would bite, 

just one hour for him alone between milking 

and bed. There is, he warns me, a member 

of our family named Solitude; you may

have met him. He poses as a friend, but truth is, 

he hates everyone. Jacob says he used to leave him

stranded there on the riverbank, but he always found

his way home. I wonder if Jacob suspects

who I have locked in the trunk, but I don’t ask.

We watch the familiar countryside pass by in silence,

and when we come upon the family cemetery

he asks me to drop him off there. Alone now,

I continue south, hoping to stumble upon a spot

I could never find again.


Jacob Runs Away to the Circus

The wire walker and the bearded lady kneel

in the center ring while the lion tamer flicks

his taw, knocks two other marbles out of

the chalk circle, drops them into his supple

leather pouch. Watching was my grandfather,

he of the huge sweet potatoes and the foul

chicken shed, the straw hat and the tobacco

auction. How did he fit in with this crowd

in 1910? An Amish boy, did he work his

foot free of that leg trap? The man I knew

later sharpened his axe with a bastard file,

blushed to name it, but he also kept a

sequined shoe in his dresser, took it out from

time to time to watch it sparkle in the sunshine.

Put it away again lest grandma catch him.


Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories and novels.  His work has appeared in journals including Trampoline, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, The North Dakota Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at

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