Carol Barrett – Four Poems


The Dance at Ghost Ranch

Coyote is up early,
slinking past

our luminous lodge
where fans cast

a cool blessing.

mimic the whirring,
incandescent tutus

at the window.  Tasseled
grasses bob and bow

in the breeze like wheat
on a lesser stage.

Beyond the straw
heads tipped to prayer

cliffs stretch their
broad shoulders

to the cape of the sun.
Sassy clouds

waltz round and round.
So many partners:

lizard, cowbell,
hollyhock, ant.

Sashaying through
my tumbleweed

mind, some rise,
some fall.  They lunge

or pas de bourre.
Spider, leaf,

arroyo, gnat.
Oh! Rubythroat

through an open
door! All sidelines

vanish in the sage,
coyote’s dance floor

wide as solitude.


So close – the camera
cuts away the tall
fir, yards of lawn, juncos
quizzing each other just
out of frame, the mailbox,
its small red beckoning:
I want to show how near
they come, as if
to say, the deer and I,
come in, come in,
for what may happen
here, unexpected,
quiet: soft head bent
to raspberries, see there,
tawny shoulder, evening
light lower in the cedars
than you could imagine
even waiting for this
on the front porch, hours,
the company of squirrels
springing from limb
to happy limb.

Falling in Love

I lay my bright towel
along the clumpy
sand, perpendicular
to a beckoning sea,
smoothing hills
and hollows until
I can elbow my belly
down and watch:

in the darker shore
a young child stoops
quick as a folding chair
to catch a ball his father
has blown round
as a dandelion spent
in the sun, tossed
lighter than wind,
hoping the boy will
bring it home, yes, chubby
cheeks grinning
under red curls

but no, the toss has
missed, the boy
must waddle
and bend when
a wave none of us
heard, wily as seaweed,
white rushing,
breaks on his knees
and he tumbles, salt,
ball, cheeks, dad in his
hightopped tennis shoes
to rescue
my new love.

Traveling toward Newport

for a coastly concord of poets,
up and over Santiam Pass, early
May, I leave the snow spread

in the woods. A line of pines
cut away to widen the road, the south
slope plummets like a roller coaster,

north bank, a blanket of wild dogwood,
petals splayed to sun.  Years before
my father planted a Kousa dogwood,

blooms dancing on its wiry frame,
not twirling from underside
like the native.  Supper, we’d look out

on embroidered cloth, clusters
of flowers knit to green. Every few years
he trimmed the heavy boughs

of cedar to give the dogwood
more room, then marked the day
it burst into hallelujah chorus.


Approaching Sweet Home, backyard
lake drawing anglers county-wide,
bikers in chaps stretch their bones.

Old barns emerge like old barns
everywhere, missing boards, knots gone
from those that remain. Near Noble Slough

a field of purple, for all the world
like Texas bluebonnets under a pink
canopy of clouds. I bet they’re bluebells,

the little bulbs my grandmother’s
neighbor in the big house traded
for cut hydrangea, blue for blue.

Stoplights appear. Ahead a logging
truck jostles, dropping a few
small limbs and bark debris. One

summer I danced on the green
in Ashland with a troupe from Texas
who couldn’t get over those trucks,

laden with logs, not cattle swaying
on planks. Logs made them laugh.
We sashayed just the same.


Finally, the turn-off at Airport Road.
Here, sheep graze, nonchalant
by the ditch. Signs for rhubarb,

a rock shop teaming with thunder eggs
waiting to be split, a meat market
with frog legs to batter and fry,

or pair with hot chiles in a roux.
I have come to a new place. Still
the dogwood grounds me. What I know,

stubborn with light, and something
more, quirky, irksome, just ahead.   


Author’s Statement on Beauty

For me, the experience of beauty often includes three elements:

A moment of surprise, the unexpected suddenly thrust into view, disrupting whatever anxious reverie or immediate concerns had been preoccupying me;

Something involving nature in a glorious unfolding, whether an expression as small as a leaf, or as grand as the sky;

The sheer rapture of the encounter signifying that God exists.

I am also aware that the experience of loss heightens that of beauty; it is a bounty we seldom invite, but which comes as a gift, nonetheless.


Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. Her poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies including JAMA, Poetry International, Nimrod, Poetry Northwest, and The Women’s Review of Books. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, OR.