By J.R. Barner

Goodbye Parliament Hill Fields1

I had been up all night with a fever.
She placed a cold rag on my head, 
Faithfully, every hour when the grandfather clock in the hall had ceased to strike. 
She would emerge from behind the antique chest of drawers 
Like a ghost, hovering over to me, 
Thin pale fingers that seemed inexplicably, 
Unnaturally long. 

She stroked my cheeks and wiped those 
Same fingers across the dewdrops of sweat 
That flecked my top lip, 
And she would sing the same phrases.
Repeated, lilting through 
My child's consciousness: thin as the skin seaming a scar 
In a voice that shattered my feverish fitfulness 
And quieted me back to a calm resolve.

She would replace the rag and swiftly drift back 
Towards the door—down the hall and away—and I would 
Sit up in bed and hear her on the stairs, 
Her crystalline voice echoing up to me two stanzas later—
Gulls stiffen to their chill vigil in the drafty half-light—
What were these beautiful words?
This lullaby, this elegiac, eleemosynary 
Song that lifted
Her up to me?

I woke up with the sunshine low in my window, 
The dull roar of afternoon already well underway,
She had been peeking in, 
Through the small crack of the door.
She’d left it ajar, 
So as not to disturb me 
After my fever broke 
And I finally had succumbed to sleep.

"What was that you were singing, last night?" I asked, 
Squinting as she raised the shades.
"A poem by Sylvia Plath." she said, softly
Needlessly busying herself with folding clothes.
"What is it about?" I asked, 
Unsure if that question 
Even mattered.
"A place," she replied, "near London, 
Where I was born"

"Will you tell it to me again?" I asked.
And she began to recite the verses in the same beautiful voice. 
The blue walls with the white trim now sparkled in the daylight, 
But I had been taken back to the blackness and 
Fever-dreams of the night before, transfixed on the 
Stillness of those long, thin, fragile fingers. 

 1Quotations are from Plath, S. (1992). The Collected Poems. Ted Hughes, ed. New York: Harper Perennial.

In Dreams

Every night as I eased into uneasy sleep,
It felt like my head was on fire,
I would tell myself it would be alright, 
As I slipped along the zephyr, made of sand. 
Alone and encased in helpless youth, 
Between the arcs of stars,
Enrobed in glistening torrents of rain, 
Traversed by the mysterious lights in the sky. 
Happiness missed, 
And happiness misinformed,
I continued my obscured trajectory, 
Without hope for a soft landing, 
Or of heaven's eternal return. 
Blinkered, I am become momentum,
And indifferent to the twists of consciousness,
As I make steady pace through an etheric
Pyramidine labyrinth of my own creation.

J.R. Barner is a writer, teacher, and musician living in Athens, Georgia. They are the author of the chapbooks Burnt Out Stars and Thirteen Poems and their collection, Little Eulogies. Their work has appeared in Pinhole Poetry, ONEART, Suburban Witchcraft, Impspired and others, both online and in print. New work is available periodically at


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