Albert Goldbarth


Keats’s Phrase

My father’ s been dead for thirty years
but when he appears behind my shoulder
offering advice, or condemnation, or a quiet pride
in something I’ ve done that isn’ t even thistledown
or tiny shavings of balsa wood in the eyes of the world
— “Albie, grip in the middle and turn
with a steady pressure” — it’ s measurable,
if not the way the wind is in a sock,
or ohms, or net-and-gross, it registers the way
an absence sometimes does, and I listen to him
with a care I never exhibited when he was a presence,

Natural State

I’ m sitting at Nathan’ s, reading a biography of Darwin
who, right now, is dissecting a barnacle

“no bigger than a pinhead (and with two penises)”:
he’ ll work like this on barnacles, his wrists supported

by rigged-up blocks of workshop wood, for eight years.
Nathan is reading too, in the worn-down banged-up “daddy chair”:

those philosophical poems of William Bronk’ s. What’ s
most delightful is that Tristan, eleven, and Aidan, ten,

Suitcase Song

John-O was given a key to the apartment. The deal
was this: if Phil died suddenly, and John-O heard,
he would rush on over, enter the apartment, leave
unseen with Phil’ s brown suitcase, and secretly pitch it
into the mounded deeps of the city dump.
Simply, there were things that Phil didn’ t want
to hurt his family with. Do you have yours?