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In Waterstones
Sighing at the bestsellers
opaque at the corner of my right
eye two ladies late in life
are centre stage amid the table
paperbacks.

“Are you following me?” the taller bellows
brimmed headscarf towering over her NHS bespectacled
sister of afternoons and shopping mornings
continuing a conversation that has obviously
followed them their entire friendship
the seeming of the pair, she is circumspect
in her contrariness.

Whatever entitles her to this
Guardianship of self-importance
Her being a lighthouse rising above the mists
condensing off beaten shards of rock
is subdued by her companions’ pithy response
“no-you know I have no interest in Autobiographies.”
Westley Barnes Dec 2018
Your soul, which loves my own,
Is woven with it into an old Tibetan rug.

Strand by strand, these enamored colours,
Stars, that courted each other across heaven's length.

Our feet are resting on this treasure
Stitches numbering in the thousands.

Sweet desert son on your musk plant throne,
How long has your mouth kissed my own
and cheek to cheek has time in colour woven us?

-Else Lasker-Schüler (Translation : Westley Barnes, 2018)
This is my translation of the poem "Ein alter Tippettepich" by the German poet Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945). Lasker-Schüler's work became synonymous in her own lifetime with the German Expressionist movement, and her work was featured in the editorials of many of her contemporaries, including Karl Kraus (1874-1936)  in his journal Der Fackel. As a Jewish author and illustrator famed for her bohemian lifestyle during the Weimar Republic, Lasker-Schüler fled to Jerusalem in 1934.

The poem, originally published in 1910, is in the public domain.
Westley Barnes Oct 2018
The happy shouts from the playground display
the jumps and twists that brought them
by sun that steals the chill away
This unexpected autumn.

The trees that give their leaves away
to the breeze that walks between them
Their boughs are hung majestically
grant hopes as gifts to dream with.

The river’s flow, The dangling rose
The barking dog’s bright welcome
A moment’s pause, to photograph
these scenes
should memory forget them.

Such worry thoughts face as evening strays,
on mistakes past and unproven
What paradox, then, to bring mind at ease
watching the late sky fires of autumn.
Written for International Poetry Day 2018. 04/10/18
Westley Barnes May 2018
Roth was a great lover of music

Old-timely big band show times that evoked memories in living rooms across white America
Provoking melancholia for what was assumed lost.

He was a master of writing technicalities
Knew the stitchings in a pair of men's brown leather driving gloves
Like they were poetic metre
Knew the nervy velocity attended to the beating of a heart through a stethoscope .

He wrote more novels that can be read in most lifetimes
As he had five different versions of himself to think through.

He wrote half a novel in the voice of an actual ex- lover

He was not particularly good at writing women.

He was unsurprisingly/surprisingly good at writing about the realities of race.  

He often cared little for reality
but could tautly pierce at the authenticity to be found
in "social realism."

He wrote standing up
Cried that novel was dead when really he was dying
He was both acutely aware and ignorant of this
He will be buried outside of Newark, presumably.

His career trajectory is unique in American letters in that it crystallized the vogue for American letters, ****** up the body, peaked and troughs with death, surveyed the end of American Innocence over four decades and closed at a summer camp.

His themes, in that order : Heartache, ***, Motherlove, Therapy, Body Horror, Satire, Egomania, , father hunger, Death, the state of the nation, regret, race, life inside the academy,fascist media darlings, liberal terrorists destroying their family narratives,Death again, old ***, absolute suicide in words, adolescence.
Philip Roth (1933-2018)
Westley Barnes Apr 2018
In places underneath or between the rain
Blossoms are budding, suffuse with stalking light
Until the evening drags off towards
a slow, easy death
Each hour an ending in itself, reflected against premonitions of waning chance.

This curse of a spring, supplementing
calm for action, cautions a new spirit of resilience
in, taking with it the attraction of deference
Like the waves that crash at the shipping bay
Now, all is circumstance

I read the newsfeed everyday
as a means of counting against this stifling reassurance.
Westley Barnes Jan 2018
This is the fourth time it's happened this winter
The fire is sparking
("Put on another log to dull the flames")
The wind, whipping up chaos outside, conspires with the moon
to plaster open our eyes, and
tangoes with the red of the streetlight to foreground the terror, the dramatic pull to this scene like the beginning of a barfight.
But all you notice is the snow.

Captivating Slush, like the wondrous ****** glow of children's television
("Close the door quickly, it's below zero outside!")
My chest wakes up to the sleeky bitterness of it, gentle but rousing,
like the critique of a crush taunting the back of your neck, but in reverse.

You've said that last line, and it's the response of everyone who can't savor what they most anticipate, the arrival of the thing itself cast aside for something mundane like safety.
The thing itself for you is watching snow,
and now you gladly push it away.

Life is so unpredictable, yet so callously routine.
To live in seasons is to be constantly surprised at things exactly how you've seen them before.
It's not emotions that frighten us, emotions are hand-me downs, the old favourite band t-shirts of experience, often ones we've worn before.
It's the feelings that surround emotion that we shunt out, that we tipex over in our journals of memory, our synaptic splints.
The tears of children who never turn back
to confront their tormentor with their tears.

And so now I'm walking upstairs as a means of brushing off these notions
("For the love of ... make sure the bathroom window is closed")
And I check my phone while debating how to spend the rest of my evening engaging with my phone while you rewarch American sitcoms, so cosy, your contentment as reliable as Irish wind
Then I sigh and look out the Bauhaus insulting bedroom window
Again I see the circus coloured tarpit the weather has made of our street
And wait a minute, trying not to feel anything
Because this is the fourth time this has happened
This year.
Westley Barnes Oct 2017
Our urban commutes are punchlines without any stories. Climb out, rinse, release, restrain, converse, intuit, insert, recharge. Why narrate?
I used to talk to God a lot when I was very young, never a ******* word back. Just strange developments ;
the family life taking unexpected detours into anger and occassional uprorious joys at Christmasses,
that sort of thing.
Amidst all the second guessing that real pursuing sense of lonliness,
at quiet moments of the day, particularly when outdoors.

You think you can stuff everything that's inside of you into a plastic bag,
it doesn't work like that.
The wind blows open memories at unexpected traffic intervals, but it really hasn't gotten anything to do with nature. Memories are just like the wind.
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