Cathy Barber

—a golden shovel after Joe Brainard*

Freshman year. My college roommate Nancy and I
had no money to speak of, just ambitions. I remember
the weekend was coming and, without jobs, selling
something—services, time, or (Nancy’s idea) blood—
was our sure path to Friday night beer money. If every
-thing went well (no chickening out or fainting) in three
hours we’d have cash for the bars. We forecast months
of easy money, being eligible to sell more blood on
every fourth week. We’d just stand in line down on Second
Street with all the addicts; come the weekend, party on the Avenue.

*Brainard, Joe, “I Remember”

Ode to Silence

To the total absence of life’s clangs and chuffs,
its espresso machines’ growls of steam,
its hollers to the UPS driver—
Put it on the back porch—
its cellphones’ quacking ducks
and their owners yakking everywhere:
concerts, funerals, mountain tops.

To tin cans and string,
push mowers and electric cars.
To taxi drivers who eschew honking!
To turning off the AC and switching on
the paddle-shaped ceiling fan.

To being right as its own reward.

To being silent as the “b” stuck on doorjamb,
the “t” whirling ahead of every tsunami,
silent as Aaron’s redundant “a” and
Eucalyptus’s peelable “e”.

To that nothingness
just before the needle skates
and the wall of sound erupts—
and that nanosecond between
“Jimmy Mack” and
“When are you coming back?”
That is everything.
For what is music without silence?

Cathy Barber’s poetry has been published in the journals Slant, SLAB, DASH, Kestrel, the anthologies Rewilding: Poems for the Environment and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and has been nominated for a Best of the Net. Her abecedarian chapbook is Aardvarks, Bloodhounds, Catfish, Dingoes (Dancing Girl Press, 2018). She is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program and makes her home in Cleveland Heights,