FALL 2011




Solidus Online

Janet Barry

a day of nothing

but shopping carts,
which i hate.

in my next life they will be banished.

in my next life each prayer will fly free
of their baleful intentions to hold me upright,
to fill me with their expectations.

my fingers twisted in their metal-lace lattice.

in my next life i will drape them with sturdy burlap,
tell them to carry nothing but rocks for a day, a week,
granite, and many loads of fossil printed shale
which i will use to build a house, a cliff
for jumping from sea to sky,

a day of lifting, arms painted white,
lofted to the air like sheets,
billowing beyond the thin line horizon.

the bones beneath my breasts expand.

burst with the emptying of all the folly that rests
in a single line of holy writ, sales brochures,
sand paintings in the cement.

by the magazine stand, potted plants.
already dead. carrying their own funeral bouquets.

in my next life, these will be banished too.

i will place clay pots over their round, pink heads.
shroud them in grass woven blankets of vetch
and clover. i will tell them i have work to do.

tell them to look away.

as i shed my dress of dead leaves,
forget to shut the door behind me.



Kelp laced by worm, storm, washed
to this gray shore

Myself - Bird

Myself - Woman

on the edge of nowhere, woman
on the edge of glass and granite forged, (unresisting)
into, (unresisting)

There is

a concrete bunker built to hold, a concrete bunker built to reek
of urine, a concrete bunker built to hold and reek of urine - consider

It has been such a long time since I’ve had a drink. Gone dancing.

Little black party dress. Liquid black eyes of a seal about to whelp
her pups, instead of milk, sea foam, hollow whistle bird bone, the cracking
of shells,

Abandoned - Lobster trap

Red. Yellow.

Red Yellow - Bands

red and yellow plastic toy abandoned washed up plastic toy plastic
smiley face ready to please, ready to spread, ready to raise red
and yellow laughter, (laughing)


And consider

Woman - Myself - She

“brushes away the sand from the seat of her pants, tosses away the torn bait bag.”
“brushes away the sand from the seat of her pants, tosses away the torn bait bag.”

What does postulate mean?

A buoy clangs from across the bay. Dong-Dong. Dong-Dong.
Dong-Dong. Dong-Dong. Dong-Dong. (insistent)



I was only there to tune the piano,
a grand old hulk that had lived for over
a hundred years, and now loomed in the corner
of this place of restoration, or maybe
purgatory, this place for people recovering,
waiting, this 'half-way house', which is a term

I have always hated, wondering what it can be
to be half-way, or how do you have half-way people,
or if they are so inbetween ways, which way
are they going - but anyway, I was only there
to tune the piano, and the residents either
avoided me, or made a few jokes, mostly about
the bad song I was playing, and a few of them
came over to watch as I removed items,

dirty food wrappers, paper clips, wads of dust,
a bent kitchen knife, a crumpled instruction sheet
with someone's name bold across the top, an outline
of her diagnosis and prognosis, meds and maybe
what songs she should sing when she is no longer
half-way between a piano and the lunchroom Jell-O,
and a month later, the New Administration

declared the old piano useless, threatened
to turn it out on the streets. Instead, it went
to be rebuilt, living for over a year with guts torn out,
parts strewn across the shop floor, then finally
moving on, all shined and new, to take up residence
with a fine family on the campus of a private school
where it sings the weekly lessons of three children,

a sonata for the occasional dinner guest, a continuo
for the invited ensemble, and I think, probably,
it is happy there, free from cigarette burns smoldering
the whites of keys, butts stuffed between strings, hammers,
emptied of the small stash of coins that used to lodge within
it's body, hidden in that dark place where ribs and belly meet
to hold all the tension it takes to make music.


Stopping for a Beer on a Late Winter Afternoon

Stark trees a background.
Black. White. And I find myself
in great sympathy with old men
these days, the world so worn,
the snow banks too exhausted
to uphold their portions of road salt,
muck, turning to ice and surrendering
to a Spring they can barely believe in.

In the dim warmth of the pub,
the man at the end of the bar
declares loudly he’ll have a beer
dammit, and no-one better tell
his wife or his doctor. “How’re
you feelin’ Joe,” someone asks,
and, “like shit” he replies,
“better bring a steak and fries
to go with that beer.”

A game show on TV. Winners
making money answering stupid
questions. Joe sips his beer, waits
for everyone to go outside for a smoke
before taking out a printed page
with a hospital logo across the top.
Chemo perhaps? Radiation?
A cardiac regime? He folds
and unfolds it, the black and white
dictates for a body reduced to
handouts, hospital tests, insurance
forms and young women whose eyes
never leave the computer screen.

“I used to fly a plane”, Joe tells me,
the paper returning to his back pocket.
“Yup, right out of Concord airport.
Nothin’ you can ever imagine
like the wind and the sky, just pure
blue from here to horizon”.

Outside, the weather has turned,
storm clouds scudding away to the north,
jagged icicles left clinging to the eaves
beneath a weak sun. They drip slowly
into gutters, puddles.
Diminish daily.


sun barely risen

a mandala of intricate ironwork.

a bookshelf with rice-paper pages.

a chair on spindle legs six feet tall.

why this naming of things best left
to the mice and voles, the small lives
who can make most use of them?

why this cotton stuffed windowsill?

there is a tapestry of cathedral domes
hovering above black boats
on silver still water. there is

a burst of mossy green expectations –

blue eyes squint
through brittle bone stairways.

a ginkgo leaf.

a glass case.

reflections kiss each other the sun
finds a gush of red mixed with brown.

the small things
forage beneath the floorboards.


a small portion

the dreams of dogs lie down soft,
a slow sweep beneath the table – who

told you that there is no redemption
in good works and a happy smile

it is

pure folly
to ride the roller coaster don’t you know

who works on those things and the other day
i learned of hate, how it is so important to

define – and how it is so important to

that the dogs will take your side, if
necessary, if called upon
        – so loyal –

the other day i ate ice-cream, watched
barn swallows swoop, yes,

it was that day that I learned of
a peace treaty a war treaty a wall falling a saint

who stands in a public square who waits to be
heard to be canonized to be martyred to be –

clearly this sinner must receive all that is due
to those who
        – oppose –

there is
a green hedge among the lilies i do not know what
lies beyond and what is there

that can sing to me out of the soft licking of paws

but a hope that dinner will arrive
        – on time –
maybe even a pat on the head,

a small portion of love, as we take our meal among
the thorns.


Interview with Cory Schofield

Cory Schofield:

As I take it, you are a piano teacher and tuner? As an aspiring pianist and composer, I found my eyes drawn immediately to your poem "Half-Way". There was a sense of irreverence and redemption that was beautiful. It perfectly evoked the image of the classic piano that sits dusty against a drably-papered wall... its once-shined top tacked with family photos, broken lamps and sticky bowls littered with long-dead insects. No matter how tuneless, I always open the creaky, chipped keyboard cover and play the sick notes out of respect for its decadent and age-old function.

I have to ask: did this poem stem from direct experience? Did you discover an actual piano in that sort of disrepair... or was it something of an amalgamation of all the strange things you've found stuffed in the bellies of pianos?

Next, I found myself fascinated with your piece, "Self-absorption". It had a somewhat Cummings-esque organizational style--mellifluous and open-ended. I imagined the words to be sleepy thoughts when one is trying to stay awake.

How did this poem present itself to you? What state of mind where you in as you composed this work? It is curious, indeed.

"Stopping for a Beer on a Late Winter Afternoon" (do I note an allusion to Frost?) was a very apt example of narrative-driven poetry. It had the feel of prose with a poetic rhythm. Was it referencing true conversations, or was it a (successful) experiment with a fictional setting in which your poetry inhabited?

In a more general sense, may I ask you how long you have been writing poetry? I am always very interested to know how poets got their start. I am reminded of William Carlos Williams who was far more interested in the sciences until his later college years where he began to delve into the realm of poetry. When did your poetry start to offer you fulfillment (if it indeed does?)

Janet Barry:

As you state, I am a piano tuner and teacher, and I also hold a position as Music Director in an Episcopal church. I have a BM degree in organ performance, which is my primary instrument, but I also play piano, harpsichord, guitar, fiddle, flute and drums. Lucky me! I pretty much want to play every instrument I see, and have hopes of picking up the saxophone someday too.

I'm glad you found "Half-Way" interesting. It is a true story, and I still tune the restored piano in its new home. When I wrote the poem, I wondered if it would have strength with non-piano astute readers, particularly the closing lines, "the small stash of coins that used to lodge within/ it's body, hidden in that dark place where ribs and belly meet/to hold all the tension it takes to make music." This reference is very specific to the fact that the ribs and belly of the piano, real names of the strong wooden parts, are actually crafted under great amounts of tension, which in turn supports the soundboard and strings and creates music. I find this interesting, but I guess the specifics of the metaphor don't have to be known for the poem to speak of issues of damage / repair / redemption / and the darkness and history within which may or may not be better left hidden and polished over. At least that is what I hope this poem speaks to.

"Stopping for a Beer..." is also a true experience, and another attempt to look into the depths of people's darkness, fear, and also their strength. I couldn't help the Frost reference! I often use images from nature as either metaphor or as an overpowering experiential transformation. In "Stopping for a Beer..." it is metaphor, but in "Self-Absorption" it is the later. The ocean works for me in this poem as an all absorbing force which takes and either destroys or remakes each item it touches, from simple wood to seaweed to the detritus of humanity. The woman in the poem is reviewing how she has been absorbed in her life by this force or that, how she has been defined or allowed herself to be defined, used, misused, tossed away, reshaped. Then finally, how she will shape herself, "What does postulate mean?" Definition: To make claim for; demand. She demands her own self, with the intensity of the clanging, demanding buoy.

You ask what state of mind I was in when writing "Self-Absorption", and I would say introspective yet almost flooded with images from a cold March day spent walking alone and taking photos at the seashore. I snapped images of bare tree branches against the gray ocean horizon, tangled swirls of lacy kelp in the foamy wrack line, weathered and smashed lobster traps with brightly colored bands still attached - and these images emerged later in the poem. I find this to be generally true of any poem I write - I need to have allowed my mind time to just wander, observe, fill itself with uncensored bits of thought and experience, and then the poems show up. Sometimes this happens while I am driving, or playing music, I guess because my mind is freer then, and I will write stuff down as soon as I can. Then I will work on draft after draft of the material, since the first draft is usually just junk, but it usually contains the essentials of a worthy poem. To me, the hard work of poetry is not getting that first draft, but sticking with the revision process until you have something well crafted and worthwhile, which may take days or months or even longer.

Well, now I think I am going on too much about that one poem, so I will try to answer some of your other questions. How long have I been writing poetry? All my life. I always loved the way you could make music with words, although I couldn't have described it that way until recently. I remember winning a poetry contest in 3rd grade, and being so proud of myself! It was probably a wretched poem, but I loved writing it. I always kept journals and sketch books, and lots of the entries would be poems. When my kids were little, I would cherish that quiet time after they went to bed and I could get some writing done. When I was in college studying music, which was later in my life after my children were older, I took several poetry courses and really enjoyed the interaction with other writers, so when it came time to consider a post-grad degree, I chose to go for an MFA in poetry. The exposure to so many brilliant poets and the feedback on my own work was invaluable in helping me to refine my voice and craft, a task that is never completed.


Janet Barry is a musician and poet with works published or forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including Ragged-Sky, Off-the-Coast, Cider Press Review, Canary, Tygerburning, and the Christian Science Monitor. She has twice been judge for Poetry Out Loud, and received a Pushcart Nomination for her poem “Winter Barn”. Janet holds a BM in organ performance and an MFA in poetry.