Barbara Goldberg

Two Prose Poems

Volume 14:4, Fall 2013
Prose Poem Issue


Honeybees and frogs are fast disappearing.  What will become of little green apples, the loneliness of lilypads?  Some species of moths no longer pollinate Arizonan yuccas. Askance, askew, something is amiss.  A wave one hundred feet high washes away three thousand souls in Papua New Guinea.  It’s hard to know when disasters are natural.  Once I was stung by a bee and my arm swelled like a melon.  In college a date slipped a frog down my blouse and I couldn’t stop screaming, those frantic hind legs.  In high school I pithed a toad.  Later I saw a half-carved cadaver, head and feet wrapped in soaked cloth, the yellow jelly we call fat.  The leaner they are, the harder to cut. Blandings’ turtles don’t deteriorate with age.  Our brain is the size of two clenched fists.  The hand is the most complicated of organs.  Which, as is written on a card I carry in my wallet, I will donate to others — eyes, liver, lungs, heart, whatever can be salvaged, should all else fail.


A man here is known as the King of Porn.  You enter your fantasy online and a few minutes later there’s a knock at the door.  In this way a poor émigré became a billionaire. His own wish was to go legit, become a mover and shaker in the art world.

And thus it happened.  He launched a magnificent gallery in a magnificent building where he displayed his own collection of glass, glass sculpture, glass installations, and many sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stationed throughout were private guards, which lent a certain cache.  Soon his gallery was flooded by more visitors than any museum in the country.

And who wouldn’t stare at an enormous glass pear, or a ficus tree that appeared fashioned of wood.  Tucked away in a small dark room was the jewel in the crown: a chandelier hanging eye high with milky angels and ruby red devils captured midflight—a marriage of heaven and hell.  It was marvelous, entrancing, out of this world. Brush a curtain aside and there is the exit, down a narrow corridor still under construction, pails and ladders scattered pall mall. There at the end looming larger than life is a translucent tombstone, but instead of a name, a mirror reflecting your own image.

How strange that a man who so clearly sees through the crystal heart of desire can be so possessed by what is so easily broken.


Barbara Goldberg is the author of six prize-winning books of poetry, including The Royal Baker's Daughter, winner of the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008). Her most recent book is Transformation: The Poetry of Translation (Poets Choice, 2019), recipient of the Valentin Krustev Translation Award. She and renowned Israeli poet Moshe Dor edited numerous anthologies of contemporary Israeli poetry including After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace (Syracuse University Press/Dryad Press, 2007). Goldberg received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as an award from Columbia University's Translation Center. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Paris Review,Poetry, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review. She is Series Editor for the International Editions at The Word Works. To read more by this author, see Winter 2007 issue and the DC Places Issue.