Six Poems by Barbara Ras

Barbara Ras | March 28, 2021
credit: S. Rae


A Day of Dragonflies


It was Sunday, scores of dragonflies, each inscribing its own

arabesque in flight, as if it was music they danced to,

whizzing and flashing through all moods, here manic,

there depressive, healing sufferers in their wake,

as long as the afflicted paid close enough attention, took note

of leaping lizards, the tortoise who pressed its right foot

down on a stem to better bite off the flower top,

and praised the palms, their fronds eternally flirting

with winds the dragonflies played in,

dashing to songs only they could hear,

older than Sumerian, older than Sanskrit, Etruscan,

older than a flute made of nearly transparent

bird bone, older even than weeping and wailing,

older than beating a hairy chest and roaring.




A hummingbird, whose heart weighs less than a penny,

will die if it goes a few hours without eating – its flame

lit to flicker and feed.

What is the bodily fluid inside insects,

and does it move by a mechanics

that is heartless?


Today we are waiting for tonight

to release the nematodes in the yard to eat fleas

and let the dogs – ten parts dignity, ten parts joy,

the rest hells bells – lick us, our wounds,

while we stroke their ears to get closer

to the higher realms. A flea

will swim in wine until it dies, lonely.

And who knows how many I’ve swallowed?

Dear loneliness, if we have to live together,

please wear the tiny polka dot gloves my daughter wore

one fancy day decades ago.

Give me a ballpeen hammer so that

I can dent things my own way, help me measure

the distance the moon moves without fanfare

away from the earth each year, and, please,

share the equation that balances

swamp and drain, villainy and virtue,

make and break.


Harvesting Dew


It is dusk, the grass silky where I walk barefoot

in the postcard of a city far away.


Swans glide on a lake in light

so painterly you might as well call it wet,


the way it bathes the scene in Renoir rouge,

as if the photographer had turned the sun and the moon


inside out and found there the very first wine,

neither red nor white, but a stirring.


The buildings lining the shore reflect eternity,

their windows singing Chopin’s “Remembrance.”


Believe me when I say the light is blooming.

Believe me when I say the photographer has given birth


to rose swans suspended forever in a pink evening, waiting,

waiting with abandon, as if they have abandoned time.


And I alone invited into the frame kneel in the still glade

and sip dew drop by dew drop, kiss by intoxicating kiss.




I want to know why there are two toy butterfly nets

in the bathroom of a house with no children

and why today the fisherman on the beach hooded

the resident blue heron in a towel.

I want to know why an instant ago a ten-pound lizard

on a palm tree out my window could rest head down

in a requiem from gravity.

Animals used to be held responsible for their behavior,

thus in New Haven in 1662, a man and his harlots – three heifers,

two sows, three sheep – all found guilty, hanged for their crimes.

I want to know why Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies.

and who came up with sprites, elves, blue jets,

and dart leaders for the names of lightning.

Keats said, “A fact is not a truth until you love it.”

I want to believe the etymology of “heart,” belongs

to a butterfly loyal to a single flower.

To revive droopy blooms, cut the ends,

submerge them in a sink of water under dinner plates

for two hours, and voilà.

Why did the French give us the phrases carte blanche,

noblesse oblige, and laissez faire, which we cruelly yoked to capitalism?

Thank god Henri Rousseau gave us “The Sleeping Gypsy,”

a dark woman dreaming in the dirt beside her oud,

a lion behind her, stock still, as if taxidermied, a white marble

with a black dot for an eye, ignoring the woman,

looking straight at us, terrified.




If it is nothing to find dreams flooded

With tides edging higher under a moon

Fuller than grief

Then what can we make

Of rocks shattered on the shore

Of hummingbirds disappearing into mist over the water

Darting away from flowers

Like souls of the just departed


I vow

To keep the five bleached quahog shells

From our day at the beach

The sixth couldn’t save you

Though I tried to fill it with magic

When I left it in your hand

Before you left us

Hollowed out


Hermit crabs scrabble the sand

In search of larger homes

Some shape

They can carry on their backs

That fits

Their particular hump and claws


Meanwhile nothing I can spell

Can contain

Death of the everlasting kind

And those were pearls that were his eyes

Repeats itself in my mind like the wrackline

The ocean writes to keep its own time.


To Fill Time


To dig for quahogs, to feel their edges like smiles

in sea mud and pull them up into a bucket.

To feel the wind as a friend, to feel current as luck,

to ignore the lines Cancer and Capricorn cutting up the globe.

To know the lie in “names can never hurt you.”

To be a gull breezing the blue, eating nothing but clouds.

To measure your ties to the past by the strength of cobwebs.

To haunt the widow’s walk its twelve narrow windows,

fitted with green cloth shades and lacy curtains.

To watch the harbor, a place later named

a Superfund site full of PCBs.

To wonder if that water you swam in summer after aimless

summer could get you the way

something got your brother, so fast, so soon.

To bury or burn the whole family you were born to,

and talk to them only through the smoke of letters

you ignite at their graves.

To see a snake with a ladybug on its back.

and grieve anyway.








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