Issue > Poetry
Daniel Barnum

Daniel Barnum

Daniel Barnum lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio, where they serve as the associate managing editor of The Journal. Their work appears in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, The Offing, The Massachusetts Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Muzzle, and elsewhere. Their manuscript, Names for Animals, won the 2019 Robin Becker Chapbook Prize, and will be published in winter 2020. Find them at

Sturnus vulgaris

                        most invasive of the migratory
songbirds / debatably the best at being
                                                 shiny / shipped to the US because shake-
                                     speare / escaped new york state to colonize
            the hemisphere / common-named
                                     as celestial creature / starlings / wing
feathers that facet / flash like black opal /
                         I'm full of facts / handy for walking that ancient
                                               farm wall's path / back to your parents' house
                         out west of paris / where we caught them gathering
             mass / over the brassy hayfield / wind given a body /
                                     called / murmuration / some perfect species-
specific word / made to match its action / sounds
                        exactly as it looks / like its sound looks / swinging
                                                its storm across the sky at dusk / half
                                     an hour before / we saw our flock
               form / those local guys / were guzzling vin
                                                de table by the forest's renaissance / aged
entrance / we passed under the mossy archway / the grass
                                     was overgrown / past our ankles / and sunset
                         suffused red through blue cumulus / ___ through a ___ /
               what use is it / to metaphor the sunset / anymore / besides
                                                 both of us had to piss / real bad / in the woods  
                         I would have / tugged the zipper of your jeans  
down myself / had we been alone / would have
                                                 done more / but what use / are all the names
                                    I know for animals / their arcane behavior /
               when I can't kiss you / too afraid to
                         be seen / by those three gatekeepers / in one
                                                 version of this scene / which is pure
fantasy / we want them to watch / did you
                                    notice / how much one of them looked  
                                                 like me / I can't say / I'm reckless enough
                         to risk / anything but walking close beside
               you / while the men stared / at the air
                                                 between us / we feigned interest in fading
                         light / clouds / the birds turned into / the distance

Mansfield Hollow

decades without and no
         pulse in my pillow. I thought
I'd given up on singing
         bridges back from their states
of desecration. afterimage

         of our young laughter: blessed
be the trestle over the knee-
         deep river in its night-lit
memory. what spanned
         one summer I would have

otherwise died gladly if
         not for you having me
keep secret. have I told
         you yet? I'm famous
for rarely telling things

         really, but then this morning,
the slope of your shoulders
         formed along the neighbor's
cedars, clear as miracle.
         somewhere in the familiar

shadow of your forest I'm
         there before you, undressing
my eye to kiss those
         metal tracks that still
wail hoarse as an oracle.


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