Rusty Barnes

The Marriage that Works

If the sky is black it means I love you
so let it rain shadows every other nightfall

because consecutive days of love
would be impossible to live with.

On our off days we can fuck indiscriminately
anyone who meets our considerable fancy

and as you point your toes to the wall in
lovely orgasm remember that when sunlight

breaks over the arbor you can be with me; it will
be tomorrow and we will shuffle our feet in fall

leaves and sing songs about the coming of the Lord
with insufficient irony and lapse into meaty

fervid arguments which can only be cured
by the anger and love we sometimes

mistake one for the other. Throw the sheets aside
and check to see how he breathes before you come

home to me; I may have used a disguise; it’s probably
me. Who’s kidding who?

I would hate to love someone else by mistake.


High School Chick Fight

I thought it was a trick of the light,
silvered wink in a dark hallway,

rish and schuss of under-breathed
talking—the long huffing pant

of someone out of shape. I caught
an earring as I noticed by the reek

of perfume these were girls. I admit
to yelling CHICKFIGHT! and settling back

against the concrete wall to watch.
I am not proud; these are just details,

like how the younger smaller girl
sunfished her way out from under

the big girl and came up with a knife,
one wild slash on a roll of fat (what

we learned later in Biology was called
not fat but panniculus instead). How

the blood looked like a birthday present
as the big girl stared at her tummy,

began to cry. It was over. Later, the small
girl cracked a plateful of spaghetti over

the big girl’s face and scarred her for life.
I learned the small girl’s name: Faith.

I fell in love with her soon after. After we necked
in my father’s Fairlane, I went too far of course.

Her cool fingers marked the side of my neck.
I released from her crotch and panicked, began

to watch for it; the sharp right hand, the blade,
the brick I could not see as I bruised her shoulder

and breasts with my mouth again and again as she
breathed my name, and I waited for the knife to come.


Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia and now lives in Revere, MA. His work has appeared in over a hundred journals. He runs Night Train and oversees Fried Chicken and Coffee , a blogazine of rural and Appalachian literature and concerns.