about the author

Anne Barngrover’s second book of poetry, Brazen Creature, was recently published with University of Akron Press, and other poems can be found in Crazyhorse, Ecotone, Copper Nickel, North American Review, and others. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she’s on faculty in the low-residency MA program in Creative Writing, and lives in Tampa, FL. Her Web site is annebarngrover.com and her e-mail is anne.barngrover@gmail.com.

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Two Poems  

Anne Barngrover

There’s Something About a Florida Night

in the fall that makes you Google why
do I get nostalgic for bad times?

as if you’d want to go back to gracing
Publix Liquors in a half-baked
Halloween costume as the cashier asks,
Aren’t you the girl who bought Wild Turkey
last week, too?
so you pony up and molt
your way out while leaving behind
a trail of black and pink boa feathers
like a solo Krewe du Cleopatra,
though life back then often resembled
a big old Mardi Gras—except the one
you actually went to was the coldest
in recent history, and you got lectured
about how you’re supposed to stomp
your foot onto thrown beads
instead of reaching out your hand—
and this was back when so many
of your friends were men,
and at parties they taught you how
to take shots of bourbon then shake
your heads together and stomp your feet
like horses, and once you hollered,
That tasted like a cockroach farted
in my mouth!
but mostly you’d promise
that you’d visit the gravesite
of whoever went first and pour out
a little Jack or Jim onto the grass
to remember all the good times
like the night you force-fed them
birthday cake then hopped the fence
of your apartment pool and stripped
to tan lines and scabbed heels
and the water felt like a bath spiked
with plastic and lime, but later a new
group of boys came in and didn’t know
what to make of you because
you were always getting halfway naked
in inappropriate locations, you were
always reaching out your hand,
and you could never keep anything
clean no matter how hard you tried,
but six years later you’re back
in Florida where after dinner you say
to a guy from Pittsburgh, Don’t you just love
a humid night?
and he looks at you
like you’re the truck on the Tampa news
that was carrying a load of pumpkins
and caught fire on 75 and he goes, No,
not at all
, so you drive back home
to your new apartment with its sparkly
granite countertops, vacuumed carpet,
and what they market as Juliet windows,
also called a false balcony, their railing
a perfect height for wistful gazing,
though you’d never dream
of skinny-dipping in this pool
because you spend most of your time
alone these days—besides,
all those boys got married years ago—
but tonight as you go to close the living
room blinds you spot a bright
green tree frog that’s suctioned itself
to the window from the outside,
and oh, how you’ve missed laughing
at the way amphibians in Florida
wear this deadpan expression
as though they’ve been done with all
the bullshit for a long time, and maybe
you’ve never noticed before how
their pale webbed toes on the glass
can look splayed as a drawing of stars.

The Crying Bird

From the parking lot I hear it scream.
           Near midnight, the body

of water by my apartment
           is a swamp hemmed into pond,
                      dark that deepens

another dark, a jaguar’s black
rosette that shimmers upon black fur.

           No beak, no wings, no sound

                      of flight or leaving. In Florida,

it’s easier to hear than see.
I’m the scientist

                      I’ve always wanted

           to be, timing each wail
           for the velvet comfort

                      of taxonomy, the need

to agree on what it’s called.


What happens when the name
           for a thing is all wrong? Secrets

bloat the wetland—hidden grotto
           behind golf course
                      tavern, empty

Gatorade notched like a sconce
into cabbage palm. But things fit

           into place so easily. Where I live,

                      there must be apple

snails and moon
snails, too, water

                      lettuce and a way to build

           nests from rushes, to wait
           out the night on floating plants

                      and not care who hears this knell.

Whippoorwill of tropic hour,


bird, lamenting bird—
           when you keen

the river halts its rise,
           and I don’t know what
                      I believe anymore.

Who writes our new story,
bird in dark water that no one can find?

           Remember me. Remember me.

                      Only its cry knows where it’s gone.

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