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Muse Apprentice Guild

American Journal of Print


Claire is co-editor at Janus Head


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Claire Barbetti
Claire Barbetti



Away from you, I'm a young woman in the marketplace, wind-tunnel of the city. The saxophone player fills the streets again with a sound that becomes the only sound; the wind lifts my hair with it today. Fish and vegetable pancakes fry on the corners, Korean women slopping the batter on the griddle slab. Small bells of flowers in stands, snapdragons, lilies, irises, tea rose. I finger the dried figs, wrinkled organelles laid out in lines in branded wood coffers. Avocados are creamed for guacamole, bread baked with olives and paid for, wine chosen, and hungry, I chew the rubbery salt of haloumi as I walk.

I wish I were, I should, I should have, I might as well have been a kite. Semblance of freedom, yes, but whose string leads to another's hands, whose own will is only the wind's. There's no escape and Desire is some other force. If I spoke the hole-word to you— is it imaginable?— you would not be you and the space between us would have the density of all our doubts and hopes extinguished and grafted onto each other, an exiled melody of umbral branches rooted in things before their naming.


You make the most beautiful photographs. Black rope of ivy against the wall is more ivy, more intrusion, more discrepancy; it fingers up like craquelure splitting the glaze of a raku vessel, more of a scar than the green live leaf and crumble I'm used to seeing. Your three white barn doors slightly ajar look exactly like the three Graces. All these pictures! It's in the framing. Maybe the best thing you ever did for me was to pull me down the staircase by my hair.

It is the third hole.

I'm reminded again in a dream of the troisième trou, the name we gave to the place eleven-year-old Sandrine, terrified, bled from at school for the first time. She thought she was dying. In the dream I find it in an attic or maybe a barn with dusty rafters, daylight choked into slight ribbons on the wood floor. Worm white bodies naked, prostrate in the direction of the grain; I approach, gaze at a full body and the expression of its spine that divides and opens and shows me the troisième trou is the destiny of your mouth superimposed over your four-chambered heart.


the gift, the water, the wine, the blood
the blood and the water
the gift and the wine

Deeply penetrated in my letters to you, by your words and by writing, I see a body strung in four directions: head and chest a uterus; each of two arms on either side the tubes leading to ovaries, open hands; and the abdomen, hips, legs the long, long southern path of the vagina.

The View Is Startling

Outside College Hall, Duquesne University

Dream-glimpse threatens to break into this break in the day. Startings and stoppings, undetermined images—a brown 1974 Chevy wagon as a coffin. Containing what? a green corridor. Where? a wasp caught in my hair. When did this happen? a piazza's flagstones. Who is with me?

Easy, easy, these things pass like the blind man whose dog doesn't guide him from bruising his knee on the smoker's bench. He slaps the dog, curses, but keeps on. And in a déjà vu after classes by the same bench, pats, tousles his companion lovingly.

Easy, easy, slip in and out of sitting in a courtyard between classes and a childhood spurned on by the shade trees. Do you remember how the six oaks grew together in your back yard and made a cauldron for rotting leaves and toys? Your lover is approaching, but he pretends to ignore you writing small memories in your notebook. He has too many tasks, as you do, uncompleted. With his back to you, gaze in and out of time that stops to repeat itself and a time too harried.
For a whole half hour, your fingers worked through my hair, trying to free the wasp. Only a little insect, a baby, you said, but pulling its clutching legs finally from the last long strand, you showed me its pulsing abdomen was as large as your palm. And your quiet voice: I only said that so you wouldn't be frightened
Go easy, run hard. If he does not speak to you, look at you, lift your blouse again and kiss you, it is true: he may never. The blind man is dancing away with his aging dog; the October wind's indifferent canticle strains the gray branches of the oak that loves memories; fans pages as you try to write them. Coming close and far, far and close, the spell doesn't dissolve, but turns, blurs the volatile spokes of a wheel. From these worn ruts the view is startling, all the faces shifting:
          the blind man
          becomes your lover of many sleepless nights
          the wasp a corridor
          the hand a flagstone
          shade tree a lost kiss
          sleepless nights your naked lover
and the face of a quiet voice becomes you
after all,
in a brown Chevy, driving so hard, so tired, caught fast in the dark flood of daylight, whose black stones rise from its white skinned waters.