At a ball game, I asked a coach the rules of baseball
and the colors of his team. Bored, you put on lipstick.
The coach explained every move while yelling at his players.
You adjusted the shoulders of your jacket. The coach and I
exchanged phone numbers. You pulled me away, towards
downtown, where we visited your friends at a dance studio.
While they practiced, you recited the names of ballet
movements, some of which I knew. You looked pleased
to teach me something and asked if I planned to call that coach.
You said you would never date a jock and mentioned
you knew some artists who were single, painters
and writers, men who created important pieces of art
with their hands. What about a carpenter or an architect,
I asked, but you didn’t know any. What about a mechanic
or plumber, I asked, since they repair important objects
with their hands. You frowned. You wanted someone
specific for me. You thought you knew what I needed.
I didn’t mind dating a coach, I said, even if
all he talked about was baseball, even if that was all
he lived for. There would be passion and practice
involved in the living and the telling.
While I stayed at your house, I never saw you
emerge from the bathroom fresh from a shower
or from your bedroom, your hair wild with sleep.
I never saw you cook or eat in the kitchen.
One evening I came back in time
to see you brush your teeth beside your son.
I told you about a poet’s house I’d visited
where poems were written on ceiling tiles
and walls, words covering every white space.
I looked at the walls of your living room
and imagined aloud what you could write
but you wanted to leave them untouched.
You preferred poems in your head
and on the page where they belonged.
You wanted nothing in your life
that wasn’t fully formed or in its place.
I thought of graffiti on city walls and bus stops
but wouldn’t mention them. I went back to the room
where I slept and didn’t see you the next morning
when I left for good. You left no note saying goodbye,
no words outside your head or mouth.
Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of Small Chimes (Aldrich Press, 2014) and two chapbooks: Earth Lust (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, 2014) and Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, diode, storySouth, Prime Number Magazine, The Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, Blue Lyra Review, and Verse Daily. She is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing and an Associate Poetry Editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. She teaches composition and creative writing at Lake Superior State University.