Jodi Barnes recently received second prize in the Poetry Council of North Carolina's Book Award. Her chapbook Unsettled was published by Main Street Rag. Please visit their website and order a copy! I've met Jodi only in passing and have stayed in contact through facebook. I'm delighted to be able to feature some of the poems in her chapbook, as well as a few new ones. First place winner was David Rigsbee, for The Red Tower, and Honorable Mentions were Joseph Bathanti and Nancy Simpson, both of whom I have featured on this site earlier. You can link to their features to see poems from their outstanding work.
Jodi Barnes is a poet and writer in Cary, North Carolina. She has a PhD from The University of Georgia and has taught graduate and undergraduate students all facets of human resource management, ethics, leadership and change management at three Research I universities. She has also been a journalist, an HR manager and a consultant.
When she is not writing, Jodi helps teens understand how group identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender) differences and commonalities enrich confidence and competency. She has been a writer-in-residence for Wake County schools for the past two years.
Her favorite author is Tom Robbins and her favorite teachers are her daughters Sarah, Ali and RaeAnna, and her aiding/abetting husband, JB Maddox. Jodi has moved households 24 times--that she can remember.
Denial Lost and Found (from unsettled)
After I lost the 12-week thing
declared inanimate tissue—
removed by gloved hand—
you mentioned we didn’t
have to have the wedding right away
that first you could move to the coast
that I could come second, find you later
and it was just an idea but I must
have known this was your way
to say let me be unfound.
I tried to forget until our eighth
married year, when you left—
a memory of small, arrested life—
the unviable matter once
and always between us.
The ninth year, I revived
what we were not able
to name or bury.
Holy Magic Goat Shit (from unsettled)
I asked my sixth-grader what she liked about mythology.
She picked Persephone—a damsel lost,
swallowed seeds, a mother's grief,
fascination with hell and frost.
What do you like? She echoed.
I broke my rule, my language imprecise,
“All of it.” (At least I hadn't lied.)
When she was asleep, I replied:
Hope. The story never has to end
or remain the same.
There is holiness in the unfixed.
Their gods are full of flaws –
hubris, favorites, fickle laws.
We mortals hold some sway.
They can't resist challenge,
like dads who say, “Go ahead. Take a swing.”
You can get a god's goat – which
eventually shits on you – but it's
god's goat shit, not a pope's.
And wouldn't Yahweh tend toward sheep?
The other thing is magic:
nymphs into cows,
winged horse from mortal blood,
one guy gender-switched, twice!
Can you imagine Jesus asking,
Man or woman: who has more pleasure in sex?
(But she is eleven;
that part I’d slice.)
Implacable parent, perfect offspring,
unshakable ghost in one god
is too much pressure,
He's too remote.
Souls are never stolen or saved.
Suffering spawns each sacred season.
And I believe this is true:
The devil only wants his due.
Hera and Zeus, that miserable pair,
can’t keep their distance.
Familiar as family, we know their sins
and those they bore too well –
Thank whatever god you, my goddess, will.
The smallest things (from unsettled)
Unless you’re lucky
each box comes furnished
with rattling tears,
a giraffe’s jagged ears
chipped off your baby’s ceramic arc
you meant to glue back these 20 years,
an errant button, two beads of glass,
a photo pass to Frampton’s I’m in You,
a matchbook from Amsterdam,
your Sanskrit name in wood,
resolutions made in Birmingham
and a poem you read when your friend
chose to leave this world.
All good intentions come to pass
like things too small to wrap,
too large to be confined to content.
Work Themed Poems (2)
It used to be good here, Myrna says,
time-and-a-half, double holidays.
It’s my first week, so I nod my head,
hoping to make rent, see my kids again.
Myrna says her kids came from the same
now he’s in the ground.
And she looks at me like I could be him
so I smile and tell her I just fell hard
on hard-luck times. That I want to
help their mama with bills
but a man can only do so much.
You can’t bleed a turnip, she says
and I agree. Then Myrna turns on me:
But you can dig a hole, throw in the seed.
She rolls her sleeves, grabs two brooms.
I barely have a handle as she sweeps circles around me.
Straight time and toting dirt, she says,
better than waiting for a root to bleed.
-published 2011 by MSR in The Best of Fuquay-Varina Reading Series
From management professor to bakery salesgirl
At 5:30 a.m. I drive to work, that place
I manage to burn my fingertips, schlep bread
from rack to rack, stack croissants, sweep
up crumbs of the bourgeoisie.
If I were still at State, I’d have two more hours
to sleep, teach them what to pay the masses,
when to sac them, where to outsource brooms,
how to sweep over burnt spirits.
-published 2011 by MSR in The Best of The Raleigh Reading Series