The Neighbors’ Barn by Terri Kirby Erickson

The Neighbors’ Barn

It’s as if the nice couple down the road
has captured the dark and is keeping it
in their barn. Any moment it could bolt
through the loft’s window-like opening
where it can observe, hour after hour, the
light of day. Yet it remains, in as black-
a-breach as there ever was, undaunting
to owls and swallows that swoop in and
out of what seems like a gaping wound.
It is the utter darkness of sealed caves
and underground burrows, where the
creatures we seldom see spend their day-
time hours. We want to shy away from
its inky, one-eyed stare—so incongruent
with the whitewashed boards and gently
swaying branches of the pine trees that
surround it. But it draws us in like black
holes in space from which nothing, not
even light, can escape. So, we have be-
come accustomed to looking elsewhere—
following the sun’s blazing path across
the sky or gazing fondly at the little boys
playing next door, their brightly colored
toys strewn around the yard. And when
the night falls across the neighbors’ barn
like the shadow of some great nocturnal
bird, we forget it was ever there at all.


Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, JAMA, Poet’s Market, The Christian Century, The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019, The SUN, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many more. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.

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