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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Paper Boy

Photo by Vladislav Klapin
PAPER BOY

At four a.m., it’s just me and my coaster bike, shoulder bag of papers, 
AM radio headphones warming my ears. My hands sting from the snap
of rubber bands. My skin is blackened and smudged with newsprint, with 
one-too-many mornings already leaving me lonely at thirteen. It’s my first 
job. I’m no good at it. I fold on the front porch beneath yellow dull light, battling 
blood thirsty bugs. I ride through the dark, ignoring street light shadows, secrets

brewing below the ridges of the cold asphalt threatening to crack this sleeping 
city open wide. I pass by houses, pedal faster whenever Donna Summer comes
on the radio, or when I let Bonnie Tyler eclipse my hopeful heart. On dew
drenched lawns, I am Flashdance, Footloose, Fame. I am free because no one is 
watching me dance except an imaginary boy. He breathes
love and devotion into my belief they exist. I make wishes and plans,

contemplate life beyond this paper route, certain my future will be newsworthy.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem is featured in the poetry collection Souvenir Boys.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Christmas Cookies

Photo by Artyom Kulikov 

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

His mother kisses my cheek, leaves behind just a smudge
of crimson. I feel the comfort of her green silk dress and I know
why he is so calm. I cling to

the tray of cookies she baked just for me, balancing them
on the tip of my heart and the edge of my smile - it never falters,
not even when the snow is heavy.

She bundles up in her wool scarf and gloves, her knitted hat.
I watch her fingers tremble over each black button of her tattered
winter coat. But it’s her memories that keep her

warm. Back to Little Italy she goes to meet her Sicilian
friends. Amongst candles, Mass and spirit, she will
explain why her son has no bride. Crumbs will fill my lap.

Maybe next year, I will get a sweater.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem is featured in the poetry collection Souvenir Boys.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Awe

Photo by Dimitar Donovski

AWE

Tiptoe Tiptoe
You crept into my nature,
Like an escalated stare.
I want to feel your rise.
With my veneration,
I could make candles out of you,
Scorch away two seasons.
On the verge of autumn,
I am as willing as your whisper
To take the fall and make it ours.
My reverence for your words
Pounds like your glowing heart
Beneath me, burnt orange
Leaves, take me there.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem is featured in the poetry collection Souvenir Boys.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Summerlin


Summerlin

Stop. I need to catch my breath. I caught you
stealing looks at me when you courted me
in the lobby of the Venetian. Vegas buzzed,
clanged, and twirled for us, shooting up
the casino sky with possibilities and lust. You
swayed me to take a midnight drive, to be-
come my 20-year-old lover, much like Juliette’s.
Yes, I wanted you, the way I want vanilla
ice cream to melt down the skin between
finger and thumb. You’re sticky and cool. The heat
of the boulevard covered us in the backseat,
as we licked the dirty desert clean. You took me

to the edge -
to the outskirts of town, night, flesh. There

I saw the hammer-smashed topaz tears, confetti
glass glittering the horizon with the promise of
a night with my Belagio boy. With you, I was seventeen
again – maybe twenty – when life was summer
all year long. The sky exploded above us
with independence. You touched my face, knew
I felt invincible when you breathed my name. Don’t
stop. I want to remember how the night slipped
through each lyric, pulse, window, tear, our fear
we would fall in love by morning. The sweet
promise living in the beautiful lips of the wind,
the moment we kissed Nevada. Good bye

to our jackpot hearts.

David-Matthew Barnes

This poem is featured in the collection Love and Detours.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hail Storm



It's after midnight.

Insomnia has struck again.

The night is still and quiet.

Even meditation apps won't do the trick.

Consider a pill but the consequences of a cloudy head tomorrow kill the decision.

Put headphones on and listen to Amy Shark.

You Think I Think I Sound Like God

Can never make it through this song without crying.

My mind is rattled and it moves in constant motion.

My feelings are a Ferris Wheel.

I want off this ride.

The storm hits out of nowhere.

Thunder cracks and the sound makes me jump.

Lightning flashes and for a second the truth is illuminated.

The reason I cannot sleep is clear.

Photo by Prokhor Minin
Because conflict and chaos are cruel and blue.

The hail pounds against the roof with a violent ferocity.

I wonder if this house will cave in all around me.

I wonder if I will ever sleep through the night again.



I wonder what it's like to not love so much.

The storm dies down and the stillness returns.

Chester Morris, Dolores Del Rio, and Richard Dix
in The Devil's Playground
I watch The Devil's Playground and feel bad for Richard Dix's character.

I decide Dolores Del Rio is playing a very unlikable leading lady.

I know I will be exhausted tomorrow.

For the rest of my life.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Falling Out of Love with the World



Falling Out of Love with the World

I used to fall in love with boys
who played guitars in bands, poets, punks,
entrepreneurs, fledglings who knew how to
kick the cage, thrill seekers who took me
to where they lived, hoping I would sleep
away their sorrows. I'm not sorry I begged

for another dance, one more song, one
more for the road. I would ride
buses across cities for the chance
of a kiss. On our backs, on the hoods
of cars, the violet sky held summer
at bay, long enough for us to write

more poems. Our youth splayed, open
and on display like the attention-seekers
we were born to be. Sold, we craved
the carefree breeze. Once, we were
fearless and wild, threw our heads back:
we shot our laughter into the bulletproof

night. Every town sparkled for us, they
beckoned like broken glass. The shimmer
stuck in our throats, the beauty made us
cry. Just stop. Nothing is fun or pretty
anymore. All your heroes are whores
still haunts me, every time I stand still

long enough to catch
the unhappy ghosts of who
we all used to be.

David-Matthew Barnes

Photo by Warren Wong


Friday, May 10, 2019

El Novio



EL NOVIO

He drinks books of Neruda, Lorca, the words
around him and he gives them back to me, not
spoken, but kissed. I shudder from his grace
that for a boy of our age is rare. I am in awe
each time he turns to me. His dark eyes flash
with the fever of those who can see

Heaven. We plan to run away. We cannot
find an idol. To soothe our search, we make
music, to survive the tempo of the keeping
of our secret affair. We are sixteen, sopho-
mores, in constant reach for another world. This one
is cruel, unkind. Here, they will not allow us to

dance. They pull us apart, send us to corners. He refuses
to marry a woman. He is disowned. I think of him
constantly as I endure the endless search for another
sure thing. In my absence, he leaps from a nine story
window. When I hear the news, I cling to ballads, Spanish
poetry, his palm against my cheek. The gentle sweet

sway.

David-Matthew Barnes


This poem originally appeared in the 2009 issue of the literary journal Inscape, published by Washburn University.

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