Barbara Daniels


Paid mourners wrap skinny arms 
around each other’s necks 
and wail together. They keen 

at the door of a hut, display belts, 
sashes, cotton coats they ripped and 
soiled. They drink as much brandy 

as they are offered. Lachrymal glands 
release water, sodium, prolactin, 
lipids, potassium, urea. Men start the cocks 

fighting. Women throw trinkets 
into the woods. Tears ennoble them. 
Light splashes like rain.

The Whistling Duck

I don’t believe in the whistling duck. Cold 
strips the landscape at this time of year.
Mourning cloak butterflies squeeze 
into crevices. Blood in their bodies slows.

I hate the cold, hate the workdays 
that clog the week. Do whistling ducks roost 
in quiet trees, making careful calls?  
If I lived another life, could I have worked 

in a vitamin store, sold pills till nine at night, 
asked a customer for the time, driven home 
in blinding snow, parked the car near laden trees,
paused the whirl of my pinwheel self
and stood outside in the whistling?

Barbara Daniels’s Talk to the Lioness was published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press in 2020. Her poetry has appeared in 
Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. She received a 2020 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. 
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