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, raised in Forest Hills, New York, graduated Phi Beta Kappa in philosophy from Mount Holyoke College. She received an MEd from Columbia University and an MFA from American University, Washington, DC. She is the author of 6 prizewinning poetry books, including the Valentin Krustev Award in translation for Transformation: The Poetry of Translation and the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize through the University of Wisconsin Press, for The Royal Baker's Daughter. Goldberg’s most recent book of translations is Scorched by the Sun: Poems by Moshe Dor, supported by the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. Goldberg's include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her own work appears in the Harvard Review, Poetry, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Goldberg has taught poetry, translation and speechwriting and presented readings/panels at the American Literary Translators Assocaion (ALTA), Associated Writing Programs (AWP) the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Folger Shakespeare Library and The Jimmy Carter Center for Inernational Peace. A former senior speechwriter for a large nonprofit organization and executive editor of Poet Lore magazine, she is currently Series Editor of the Word Works' International Editions. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.