Cover art by Alexandra Gerry

Albert Goldbarth

A pebble in the mouth
increases saliva flow; assuage
your thirst on its sunbaked surface.
Bite your tongue for the juice.
When you’re hungry you’ll suck a deer turd
for what steam can give your belly.
When you’re hungry you’ll bit a live snake
(behind the head) in two, what you can’t eat
you drink. When you’re hungry
you’ll manage on weeds no matter
how many times they’re thrown up wholly.
And when you’re really hungry
the stomach digests itself
and wants no more.
Or the caged wolf lets itself starve
before the zoo’s collective gooney face
as a final vestige of context.
Suffocating with sky,
the lemming leaps toward its pinhead reflection.
The rat gnaws itself
free of the trapped paw.
The daddy with children riding his legs too
suddenly falls on all fours.
I’ve been talking about the mind,
it seems, when it’s hungry, when it’s prisoned.
When thinking’s famished
inside its tight cell, brain too
turns stone, a hard gray clunk
in the skull to increase the head’s red juices;
or looks for a thin line of life to bite
in half, or an ocean to plummet its nose at;
or, backed against the farthest corner,
turns on itself, or into itself,
as if the bars didn’t matter
and its big bear eyes might wake in spring
and weep digestive juices
for the wondrous world they take in.

Albert Goldbarth was 26 when he wrote and submitted these poems to Phoebe and is 67 now… he has no memory of them, but would like to believe they were written with a novice’s passionate love of the art. In the 41 years since submitting to Phoebe, he’s been busy enough, accruing the long list of periodicals publications, from Gum and Clown War to The New Yorker and Poetry and The American Poetry Review, and has published a long list of poetry collections, two of which have received The National Book Critics Circle Award. Other honors for his poems include a Guggenheim Fellowship, three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mark Twain Award from the Poetry Foundation, and annual “best of” awards from Poetry magazine; and other published books include five collections of essays and a novel, Pieces of Payne. He currently lives in Wichita, Kansas—somebody has to—and his fingers have never touched a computer or laptop or tablet keyboard: even so, he isn’t bored and knows what a hashtag is.