This strange man who, years ago, sacrificed
his time to become a coach and substitute
father, is waking in the wet sand, mute
and stunned at this island that is twice
the distance from the simple things he could
once grip in his callused hands.  He is given
a third of the world's words, or just the ends
of sentences that have come unhooked.

And though he knows nothing will cross the water,
I can still see his fire burning in the whale
song and in the moonlight that is filtered
like lace through the tropical ferns, a pure
moment of how he belongs where tomorrow sails,
with all its memory and the lives that mattered.

Barry Ballard


A worn path from no particular place
carries me through a section of forest
I've never ventured, attaching itself
to my simple clear awareness of being
alone.  It vacates longitude and waits
for direction as we travel, a few steps
at a time, into the contemplative spell
of trees - where their shadows have been bleeding.

And we wonder how we will fare in this
thicket of weightless thought, winding us
around giant elms or in and out
of the drift of water, where our minds enlist
the shifting light around us for deciding
at what to move, or what to leave untouched.

Barry Ballard

BARRY BALLARD's sonnets have most recently appeared in Smartish Pace, Rosebud, Hollins Critic, National Forum, The Florida Review and Quarterly West. Recipient of the Explorations Award for Literature from the University of Alaska and the Boswell Poetry Prize from Texas Christian University, Ballard has also published two prize winning collections: Green Tombs to Jupiter (Snails Pace Press Poetry Prize, 2000) and A Time To Reinvent (Creative Ash Press Poetry Prize, 2001). He writes from Burleson, Texas.