Steve Barbaro

Summons in the Form of an Evasion


At night, the pond’s surface is stupidly eel–dense.
Why is it that the word irredeemable, amidst the eels’
flippy countlessness, so clutters the mind’s air?
That cluttering is just the sort of cluttering
kin to derangement, yet the force of the eels’
flapping curdles into something like a sensuous
surfeit, I mean something like the sound of sound
out–sounding itself—something, like, I dunno,
the soul? Not that the soul definitively, like, exists.


But not that the soul doesn’t exist. Or not that
the soul doesn’t exist in spite of the body, & not that
the eels’ motion isn’t the crudest motion. But not that
the crudest motions, too, can’t make you feel your own
skin fleshing up against your own skin, as if toward
something beyond itself, something indefinably specific.


But through the sudden stillness of the eel pond,
the eel pond’s boat–less, most un–self–annunciatory
stillness, to which I wish you the utmost access, I am
certain that I can still hear the faintest of drips. One
comes to such certainties, one would think, or like
to think, in spite of one’s self. Blankness, eels, darkness,
blankness, ripples, eels, those subtle alternations,
then at some point the distant cryptic noise
reappears, that dripping, feeding itself through
itself, & feeding the surrounding silences, too,
never quite crowding the silences but also
never quite leaving the silences to the silences...


But at some point you must just let a thing be
whatever the hell it is… & in the wake of that faceless
dripping, wouldn’t you know it but that each last
eel disappears. Just like that, the eels, gone,
zilch… They went where—to the pond’s bottom?
& they will come back when—tomorrow?
The day after? Ah, but even the eels must
leave the eel pond to the eel pond, yup, even
the eel pond’s eels feel the eel pond
eeling itself through a forced sense of self.


37 Panoramic Views of Edo

Studying a long–dead landscapist’s work, we shudder.
Your attention’s a kind of pool, mine’s more of a puddle.
Framed and glazed, one info panel says. Silk: ink, gold, and color.
A volcano looms bauble–like over the sketched city, as if made to order.
Then, as if in offering to some God of Inscrutability, aloud
you wonder why you wonder about what to call that space that
clutters the mind all the more densely for the way that very
space can’t be described, uttered… But fuck that word, you

snivel, I hate that eighteenth–century–type verb, ‘utter’
And what’s the point of pointing out the way that the names of places
always somehow extend the space of whatever they
point out? And why does that aggregate space unfailingly
flutter? But I want to draw a map not of space but of pure sentiment,
you muse, because I don’t want to be ruled by sentiment
but to rule sentiment, & in the way that the land isn’t ruled by but rules
the words it is called… But haven’t the words of maps also been the very

words that have made more odium of the most odium, & as if to mock
the mechanical way words mostly meekly lead into another & another?
I mean the names of cities & countries are hardly inert, no?
Yet to divulge, as one might divulge truthfully, that we are now, of all
places, in Japan—uh, I just said it. Not to you, of course. But this
fact makes me feel, I dunno, Japonismic? Touristic? And would it be more
apt to talk of how we soon arrive at a typical Japanese garden pond?
Or must I speak of how we are soon sleeping for a while near six

traffic cones? Or how all odium is largely the wont to word
the land in full? Or how all fullness is the odium of the land’s
half–wonts? Or how all words scatter necessarily with
a torque of incompleteness, self–unknowing? Or how, look,
look: Japanese traffic circles the mossy throats of six ponds…

Steve Barbaro has poems, fiction, and criticism appearing in such venues as New American Writing, The Yale Review, The Common, 3:AM, Web Conjunctions, Prelude, and DIAGRAM. More information can be found at