Monday, April 13, 2020

Tom Barlow


She rises at two a.m., the night outside the trailer
black over white with shivering stars. She blames
her sleeplessness on that day, years back, when
her horoscope read, "Gemini—as Jupiter enters
your fourth house, watch for your hero to appear."
That night there he was, helping push the prom
queen's car out of a snowy ditch.
Her car. Her reign.

She stands at the kitchen window, Dutch oven
crusted in the sink before her, cigarette hand
dangling from crossed arms. The bruises on
her arm had deepened to match her auburn hair.
She will stay up the rest of the night rather than
return to a bed covered with her grandmother's
quilt: Celtic squares, for luck. There her hero
sprawls, dreaming of blowsy women and new trucks,
trophy deer and touchdowns, dreams he insists
on relating with his morning eggs and bourbon.

She has turpentined creosote from his coveralls
for the last time, she has packed her last olive loaf
sandwich, she has jacked her last stream of jism.
What use has she now for a hero? Her wedding
dress went into the burn barrel a week ago, the
yearbook and tiara are packed. She is ready to
wedge open the propane valve, knowing he
will fire up a Camel before getting out of bed.
If her cousin Jewel comes through with the
promised ticket, she's on the 7 a.m. bus, gone
in search of her empire at last.

Tom reads "Prom Queen":

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Tom confesses: "I've spent many an hour cycling through the backroads of Southern Ohio, and seen the squallor that many young people have fallen into in a world that glorifies coarse living, lack of jobs and the ubiquity of narcotics. I doubt many of these people saw themselves headed here while in high school. They must have had dreams. We all do. The question is, how long can you tolerate it?"

TOM BARLOW also writes crime fiction, which may be found in anthologies including Best American Mystery Stories 2013, Dames and Sin, and Plan B Omnibus and periodicals including Switchblade, Red Room, Pulp Modern, Heater, Plots With Guns, Mystery Weekly, Needle, Thuglit, Mystery Tribune and Tough. His crime short story collection Odds of Survival is available on Amazon. See more at

1 comment:

terry dawley said...

I enjoyed this poem, Tom. Lots of vivid images and specific details. Nice job!