153.1: Barbara Claire Freeman:: from #343 153

Sometimes walking alone at night, I get spooked. I hold my keys like jagged blades between my knuckles. In this way I change my shadow. I penetrate the night with a little threat to keep away and before I know it, I’m home safe. As I read Barbara Claire Freeman’s writing this week, I’m reminded of this feeling. I’m captivated not by the characters but by the shadows they cast on a starless black night. “She,” “he,” “someone,” “we” never completely manifest, though their intentions to impose on the night cause the landscape to shift. The row of pine trees must be kept on the right of an undefined “we,” reminding the reader how we orient ourselves in space by defining our surroundings with relation to our own body’s axis. The smoke hovering far away in this poem creates an image for “you alone,” but despite this, the hill that no one recalls persists. The danger extends itself into the distance in signs beyond the road. This poem neither crosses nor creates a distance—rather it seeks to describe what it’s like for a distance (and a length of time) to exist. And that simply can’t happen without the shadow of a character to move across a field, near a stream, through time. Could it be your shadow? At the end, do you feel closer or further from home?

This selection by Freeman is excerpted from her chapbook #343, which is forthcoming this fall in the fourth installment of TOA's Chapvelope Series. Read more about the other work included in Chapvelope Four and pre-order your copy today. S. Whitney Holmes

from #343

Someone asks her to explain
the duplicate parts, in their own way
finished, and then the tinier marks—
row after row, all the way to the conclusion.
First the wall and then the night

as if it were still ink. Additional night
from plants or stones, and starless
for thousands of hours. Vast but episodic,
the silvery image meant for you alone
its color caused by smoke
hovering in remotest distance.


What is to come but the ladder
twigs and the wish and little
drops, some rusted wire
in the field where streams
still are. At the next gate

nothing opens. Those forbidden
to stop hear a language made
from squares speak something
other than itself. Near the hill
no one recalls, this is where a latch
should be, black asterisks and


later someone says there was no animal—
they are little things from boarded-up places
now all but visible—an arm,
thumb, sacred text, a pond
splayed in every direction

as day follows day and metal bins
extend the danger sign beyond the road.


One year, then forty-eight, then
a plateau with seven pine trees
we’re told we must keep on our right,
vineyards leading to a ridge, hardly
discernible trail near boulders

becoming less and less symbolic,
visas for unknown countries, imagined
ships, real captains—
he’ll end up too far north
beneath a series of vertical planes,
stalks heavy with black grapes.


But where in all that noise
sweeping over the masts and towers
is a transmitter powerful enough to entertain
witnesses who hold their breath and hear
mostly tires on the road and cars

passing. First the noise and then
the breeze and then the shade and then
the hum. Then nothing but the
then of unrecorded voices without sound.