Selected Writings


by Barbara Kussow

                                    For Natalie, 1996

My funeral dress was airy black

light and loose and long

falling almost to my ankles

I was spilled ink

flowing on an impermeable surface.

Three days earlier

I wore hospital scrubs

pajamas offered by a kind nurse

my stomach tense as a surgical clamp

in the bed next to yours.

From your wardrobe

I took two items

an oversized flannel shirt

to comfort me in winter’s pall

and a dressy blouse

magenta geometry with scrolls,

patches of pink, teal, lavender and gold

to lend me your grace and smile

One left me numb,

the other streamed light

from stained-glass windows

to become a shroud

Last Christmas you modeled

long baggy sweaters

and lean leggings

“I’ve always wanted to be thin,” you said.

Watching you twirl,

I tried to fit the shape, the shadows,

the contours of you into my synapses

An unskilled seamstress

with no pattern

taking fearful measurements.

This poem was previously published in Red Owl Magazine (now defunct).  It also won an Honorable Mention in a ByLine (also defunct) contest several years ago.


by Barbara Kussow

Scrunched down in a chair not meant for sleeping

I wake with a prolonged sweetness like savoring

the last pages of a novel I don’t want to end.

A sometime insomniac in my own bed I have become

a public napper in the afternoon hush of the public library

fiction section, unfolding my curved spine among readers

too preoccupied or polite to notice near the “B” section

where the brothers have been shifted again, twins

one better known than the other I knew in another library

long ago. We were discontented clerks insufferable I’m sure

handing other people’s novels across the counter, even then

his ambition an intriguing book jacket he was certain to fill.

He had the slouch, the beret worn atilt over thin red hair,

pale blue go-to-hell eyes behind round wire-rimmed glasses

a brash manner with feigned contrition if anyone took offense.

I keep meaning to take one of his books to the circulation

desk and slide it across the counter but I’ve gotten no further

than the photograph showing his fuller visage and somewhat

satisfied smile, his plots less compelling than his persona—

a developing character in the novel I’m still planning to write.

A slightly different version of "Public Dreaming" was published in  BYLINE (now defunct) several years ago.

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