Incantation for Our Mother

Mother, we knew the caress of your deep currents
before we grew feathers and took wing.
We knew the rock and lullaby of your waves
before we grew legs and tottered out from
between your sunkissed limbs onto the shore.

Mother, we knew the salty sustenance of your
body, the irresistible pull of your tides
nudging us ever forward, until—incredibly—
we walked on two legs, shaky at first.

Mother, we grew and grew and drifted distant.
Forgetting the way your suspiration drives our
own very breath, we forsook you for high
octane, for spray starch, for Big Macs and
chilly houses. We forgot you in our greed for

everything we made or thought we made. We
spat poisons in your pristine air. In the depths
of your belly, we unleashed the water monster,
its slick tendrils endlessly unfurling, their
long fingers snaking out to wrap around the
throats of your sea turtles and egrets, stopping
the water dance of the curved fin, ending
the dip of feathered wing in air, garroting
your children in its putrid embrace.

Is there a sign, is there a chant, to bring us to
our senses? Give us a song, give us a way,
is there an incantation to say to put the mad
genie internal combustion back into its
bottle, to dispel evil spirits set loose by
our monstrous chemical brews, our fission of
nuclear bad news. Give us a sign, give us a
way, give us an incantation to say.


Barbara Barnard was born in Arkansas of Appalachian parents but grew up as a Navy brat, living all over the U.S. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in such magazines as The Cimarron Review, New Letters, Off the Coast, Main Channel Voices, The Nassau Review, and Eclipse. Three of her poems appear in the anthology Songs of Seasoned Women (2007), and she is co-author of Access Literature (2006). She earned her MFA in Fiction from the University of California and has taught creative writing and literature at various colleges in California and New York. She currently lives on the Rockaway Peninsula, off the coast of Queens, New York City, and teaches at Nassau Community College/SUNY.

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