The Future of Loneliness

Brian Barker

The only thing that remains of you are some cancer cells that won’t stop growing. At night the janitor whistles “Body and Soul” as he mops, and you climb the clammy glass wall of the test tube. Each cell glows like a candlelit room where your lover waits for the phone to ring. All of those identical lovers in identical rooms, pacing in slippers over the polished floors. They gaze out of watery windows, their faces pinched with worry, never knowing one another. The laboratory machines make a constant white noise that part of you thinks might be God preparing to swallow you whole. Part of you falls asleep and dreams of a car dealership in Houston, the spangled pennants blowing in the breeze, a single live oak flickering in the diesel fumes of dusk. Part of you wants to grow a mouth and shout, “Human reason is beautiful and invincible.” Part of you thinks, Fuck you, Darkness, and doesn’t realize that even this is a kind of prayer. The rats snore in their cages. The janitor slips out, softly shuts the door.

Brian Barker is the author of The Animal Gospels (Tupelo Press, 2006) and The Black Ocean (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition Award. His poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in such journals as the American Poetry Review, Blackbird, the Cincinnati Review, Indiana Review, the Kenyon Review online, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Poetry, TriQuarterly, the Washington Post, and the Writer's Chronicle. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where he is a poetry editor for Copper Nickel.

The Future of Loneliness appears in our Winter 2016 issue.