Julia Shipley

Barn Red
May 21, 2019 Shipley Julia

Barn Red

Home alone, I swirl on scarlet lipstick and forget that I did,
so when the dairy farmer knocks apropos of nothing,
and stares longer than usual, I suddenly remember,
and blush a matching hue, when to my surprise, he asks, Can I see?
I hand him the cylinder, which he uncaps as he leans
in toward the mirror, applying it to his freshly shaved face,
so now we both bleed the look of those who’d gorged
on a beetroot feast. Years hence, I still don’t know what to conclude—
he never said much that meant anything I could discern,
so I spent my energy in conjecture, and that’s how we soared and stalled
and plummeted through those months under the engines of my intermittent
imagination. So forgive me if I invoke more uncertainty when I admit
I think of his gesture as religious, like the grand compassion of the priest
who supped with the monk who failed at fasting—perhaps he recognized the pain
of being seen and attempted to relieve me, by visiting it upon himself?
Or perhaps we sure were accidental vampires,
who couldn’t bear inflicting our affliction on any new victims,
so we fed on our mutual wounds. Naw, that’s too narcissistic and raw.
Probably he was just showing me all he couldn’t declare throughout
our faulty affair: that he’d always been, and was now officially, fabulous.

Julia Shipley‘s debut collection, The Academy of Hay (Bonafide, 2015) won the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, AGNI, Collagist, Harvard Review online, and Poetry. She lives on a bone-rattling dirt road in Vermont.