J.T. Barbarese

October 12, 2011 Barbarese J.T.



Every store on Chestnut
blinks a moon-or flashlit face,
and the loser on the vent
at Walnut grins a picket
fence when a sudden taxi
torches him. Homely in repose
and semi-lotus squat, he knows
what’s what because he either sees
or wears it. A handful of punks
from the Northeast, pure trash,
come pouring from the subway—
piratical, pierced, mohawked, eye-patched—
and one points a stickbat
at this unsexed lump then
hawks a lunger into the cap
and they scatter onto Locust.
Hulk and Hellboy show up
and stare at the Jeff cap
and its filthy small fortune,
as I add my dumb change
and say nothing, half-
distracted by three leggy
twenty-somethingish drunks
in Pipi Longstocking duds
blacked teeth rose-blotted cheeks
licking fake chocolate cones
and spinning their pigtails at me
The light balloons overhead
and the darkness sucks it
down and coughs up silhouettes
of City Hall and Billy Penn
marching into the dark. The wreck
on the vent has enough for his pint,
but who am I to begrudge or judge
him or his stubborn comfort? His
is the perfect homelessness
—uncompromised, unmasked,
Lear’s bare forked animal
made up as what he is—man unmade,
the what that inhabits the who
when the habits go,
half-lit on his cold vent tonight
while the children of light greet
the children of the dark
in the middle of Broad Street.

J.T. Barbarese‘s last book of poems is True Does Nothing. Forthcoming later this year is After Prévert, a translation of selected poems from Jacques Prévert’s Paroles.