Friday, December 30, 2011

mother and child on an Italian train (eyes glistening with anticipation)

could these words chisel a metaphor
from memory
to portray a Madonna and child
from a sight on the train to Lucca
can I pare away the white
scribing dried ink across a watermark

could the image ever find the light
the sliver of time to give substance to the dream
or will some miniscule fissure tear this vellum
forever ruining the piece, the poem
showering shards of shredded printer paper
to the drifting waste like marble dust
left over from Michelangelo’s fury

then, will the vision verify the dream again
or will memory fail to find that other mother
and her child on the train to Firenze
another Madonna and child
prego, she said motioning toward the window
delighted, the child sat proudly watching the station drift by
cosa vedi? she asked
what do you see?
un uomo che correva!
A man running!
the mother loving sharing teaching teasing
the child trusting smiling laughing
loving learning life from a touch a wink a challenge
the mother taking all of this time
these moments mattered
there was no melancholic backward glance
no anxious sigh or hint of boredom
no rear view mirror distraction
or a thousand other things to do, deadlines to meet

no vision of the Pieta fearing the day
when he will take the train alone
no thought of no longer nursing but knowing he must
someday suckle the time the future will give
the motion and hum of steel wheels
turning round toward the distance
the gentle rocking of the train car lulling the day, but not
diminishing the blaze of childhood, the warmth of motherhood
the speaker announcing, “Firenze, Santa Maria Novella!”

andiamo! let’s go
gli occhi lucidi con antizipazione

Barry DeCarli
November 4, 6, 9, & December 24, 2011
Ferrisburgh, VT
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Saturday, December 17, 2011

similar wars

similar wars

another war ending
more guilty feelings for not
being able to pick up a gun
or a fellow soldier’s  severed hand
or memory, a letter home
some part of speech lost
this war
had less protest than that one
where we would have put a daisy
in a gun barrel
and said “ make love, not war”
and surely the feelings are different now

my reluctance hardly balances
your willingness
my comfort weighs lightly
on your sacrifice
my desire for self-preservation
is too thin a veil to obscure the generosity
of you overcoming your fear
my inability to know what I might die for
can not diminish your steadfast belief
that you were doing the right thing
yet, at the end, I am here alive
while you are number 4,487
on another list of those lost to memory
who can say thank you, now
and have it mean anything
to your family, to anyone

conscripted, enlisted or dodged
does it matter whether this war
was any more necessary than that war
will it matter or not
if your death or my life was in vain

Barry DeCarli
Ferrisburgh, VT
December, 16-18, 2011
This poem was revised on Veteran's Day 2014
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli 

Monday, November 28, 2011


I’ve always feared the pressure cooker’s
relief valve stem
imagining that bolt of stainless steel blasting
into the ceiling or maybe ricocheting
off the light fixture
into my left eye
killing me dead
the slow cooking crock pot seems so safe
the easy alternative to worry, anxiety and pain
but life is not all about staying safe
some of it is risky
doing or daring
after the pressure cooker didn’t explode
after those slow cooked pork chops
fell apart with the touch of a fork
a belief may change
some things are just too easy to find fault with
or are they just so easy that it’s hard to find
fault with them
the path of least resistance is like that
going with the flow
along for the ride
but who respects that
why can one offense last a lifetime
a momentary glimpse of truth
of condescension
a temporary lapse of tact
an apology never tendered
sometimes a simple ingredient
can sharpen senses giving you a chance
to see who is in front of you
to refocus some old, waning energy
like a can of Campbell’s Chicken with Rice soup
like a smile, a question, a poke in the arm
to overcome the pain
to cross a divide of misunderstanding,
the shivers of hurt, the growing number of years
to take a risk
just to make amends 

Barry DeCarli
November 25, 26, 28, 2011
Ferrisburgh, Vt
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Thursday, August 25, 2011


bulldozer blade bullying rocks
out of hard-packed ground
grinding a fresh surface
steel against stone
blade against boulder
restlessness against rock
a cacophony of stone against steel
boulders tumbling across
a dented tailgate
the dull groan of stone against dirt
echoing off water and sky
the chalky muted growl of rock
against rock

what if these sounds could form a foundation
a place to stand
to hold back the next mudslide
the next descent
what if this noise alone could deliver sanctuary
to protect us
decibel by decibel
from the silence we’re afraid to hear

would we still block our ears

Barry DeCarli
August 25, 2011
Goshen, MA & Ferrisburgh, VT
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Thursday, June 2, 2011


back then
they were the big people
who could cast a shadow
over my spot on the kitchen linoleum
for only a second
as their strong, warm hands
lifted me up to the light

now that memory seems hindered
wider shadows are cast
over my place in the diminishing years

I find myself
still hoping for that light

Barry DeCarli
June 2, 2011
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Friday, May 6, 2011

what we need (for Debbie)

once in a while
he got a glimpse of her grocery list
his margarine
unsalted-top saltines

he just noticed
that they hadn’t run out of milk
like he worried
they would
she knew how long things lasted
her inventories always one step ahead

he imagined writing an item
on her list
like bananas but it was already
maybe he could write something
they never bought
like frozen pizza
but he knew that his scribble
in the wrong spot
next to her easy script
could throw off the balance

of letters and categories
mixing the unseen map of aisles
as she rushed to fill the cart

with everything they need

Barry DeCarli
April 22, 2011
Ferrisburgh, VT
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

a death in Pakistan

who cringes from the clamor of this wild chant
that treats this Special Ops killing
like a long sought World Cup victory


who is unable to kindle enthusiasm
for this death
while agreeing he should be dead
knowing that some justice had been exacted
who is uncomfortable with the clamorous shouting


who is repulsed by the bravado, the machismo
the in-your-face, bring-it-on arrogance
who can conjure an image of college students, waitresses and firemen
parading in the street, swaggering with his bloody head on a stick

who can not feel relief
in this death or in this display of frenzied pride

while girding for the explosive aftermath to come


Barry DeCarli
May 4, 2011
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli


Friday, April 29, 2011


we bury the body, the bones
hair and sinew
whether we believe
or not, but wanting to
that the soul has gone on
is not there in the cold damp ground

who chooses the season to die in
when the ground will not be broken
by pick, shovel
or sorrow
but the time for waiting is gone
we carry home the remains
the gravely grey bits
of charcoal
the dust of bones
not to be buried under heavy earth
but scattered in the winds of days
and places gone by
spoken words that matter
the release of substance and spirit

mourning and rejoicing
witnessed by sun, clouds
wind and sky
true friends

promising hope
the quiet inkling of something more

Barry DeCarli
April 3 & 29, 2011
Ferrisburgh, VT
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Betsy Ross

I never intended to be a rebel
at the time, I was more of a lover
though I suppose that eloping with John Ross
and marrying him in Hugg’s Tavern might
have been construed as rebellious
having then been “read out” by the Quakers
disowned by the Griscoms at twenty-one
hardened me to perils I would face
our surreptitious boat ride across the Delaware
was my first act of protest
the war against the British killed John and husband number two
suffering Tory soldiers in my home
I sewed buttons for George W.
and between upholstery jobs
made a few puffy shirts for him, too
he asked if I could sew a flag for our new country
I answered with my five-pointed star
then I whip stitched myself into history
today, you say someone might burn the Stars & Stripes
to protest our own government’s trespasses
somewhat unpatriotic, indeed
I would have burned that “Don’t Tread On Me” flag
protesting just its ugliness
you know, elections do not swiftly satisfy unrest
sometimes a nation will not extract itself from war
a little flame and smoke
might jar it from complacency
as the star spangled kindling of revolt bursts in the air
this symbolic speech might be quicker, more stirring

here, let me light the match

Barry DeCarli
©2010 Barry DeCarli

Friday, March 18, 2011


who can put it back
together again
Spring into Winter
not the other way around
still the snow covers some ground
islands of white in the gathering green
but some things happen
too late to matter too much
can history hurry
can it change the way we look back
when the wave came and swept us away
after we stepped into what we thought
would be the future
there were ideas louder than our whispered demands, our cries
starlight speeding to you across a universe

but no one who knew was there to see it arrive

Barry DeCarli
March 18, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

enough time

approaching the night leaded
weighted with vague fear
unabated anxiety mixing
hope without piety nixing
no dream, no seer knows
no dope other than
pinot noir
lowering the bar
to dance under
a hundred places still
to see, to wonder
don’t know if I will
whether the rainbow
or the star
will cover the sky
or if some other pressure
will cloud the eye
too low or too high
still praying to fly

Barry DeCarli
March 11, 2011
Copyright 2011 Barry DeCarli

Saturday, February 12, 2011

snow and sand

can winter
influence the way we see history
will we remember the way we left
the wipers pointing up
away from the frozen glass
can a snowbrush gently remove the depths
of temporary white obstruction
without disturbing what can be seen

how unlike archeology is this
digging to free the custom wheels from ice and snow
using an old coal shovel, a kitchen broom
to escape to gain the freedom of the road
with a polymer finish that polyethylene would scratch
gentleness would seem anathema to the task at hand
and yet if the digging could yield antiquity
archeological or paleontological
would we use a toothbrush, a Purdy paint brush
a mason’s pointed trowel gently to gain history

what is covered, obscured is somehow familiar
like shadows and echoes
urge us on to clear away the dust of years
of weather, of history
to find our own way, to discover what has been discovered
not snow, not sand, but tyranny has compromised our willingness
to take a breath, to hope for more
no wipers have been encrusted to the windshield
we have no tires buried in these sands of time
our vision of the path ahead is clear
no hieroglyphics written on a placard here

still we have brushed away the weight of suffocation
the burden of poverty, the detour of the path of least resistance
we have scratched the surface of this day
to reveal, not the chains and history of antiquity
but the dormant, subconscious dream of civilization
the unlikely discovery of treasure more brilliant than Tutankhamen
cleared from the debris, the impossibility, the sacrifice of Tahrir Square

the uncertain, but hopeful promise of freedom

Barry DeCarli
February 11, 2011
©2011 Barry DeCarli

Monday, January 10, 2011


did you shop for groceries yesterday
such a simple task
hopeful for the bounty of a new day
still able to hold someone you love close
walking the safe way from your car to the store
unworried, unburdened, unafraid
what words will come now
pushing themselves up
from fathoms of sorrow
to conjure a resurgence of fear
as the faces and minutes of hope are lost
to the clocks of history once again

Dealey Plaza
Ambassador Hotel
Lorraine Motel
Murrah Federal Building
World Trade Center

as prayer and disbelief surface the flood of tears
can civility emerge from a head wound
will we listen now to the slurred words
to fix the aberration of the 2nd Amendment
especially as vitriol inflames stunted minds
they load their Glocks to fulfill their own prophecy
to sight innocence in the cross hairs
as these massacres become more commonplace
can some collective epiphany engage us all
how long can we hold our breath
while holding back our tears
how long will we carry these images
just stopping to buy milk and bread
then rushing home to pull down our shades and lock our locks

Barry DeCarli
January 09, 2011
©2011 Barry DeCarli