The National Poetry Review

Allison Barrett


No wonder it’s called milk thistle, that purple
bauble with its areola of thorns. Milk is prickling
in me again– letdown, they call it.

My eldest feint-hugs the Suaharo to glimpse
my weather, so quick am I to panic. Her laugh,
the automatic sprinklers. We walk the children round

the block, past the marmalade cat on the corner,
the cat so eager for our hands to stroke his back,
the cat my husband fears has fleas, the cat

whose tail’s tip my son’s small fingers graze.
Here crushed granite in lieu of grass.
They call it fill– it can’t. Nowhere

for a budding Alice to sink and gaze skyward.
That milk thistle I mentioned doesn’t belong
here, nor do we, nor does the hybridized

Chilean mesquite– it’ll bust up your sidewalks.
Consider instead the deep-rooted Velvet variety,
not often a cause for heaving hardscape. If

you plan on staying, that is, long enough
to plant, to hang a swing from the branches.
We won’t lodge in any passing fur,

just a family taking the air
past the beckon and chastise of transplanted honey
locusts whose thorns were meant to modify

a mammoth’s appetite, lest it lean too hard,
strip their bark. They don’t know
there’s nothing that hungry anymore.


My spunk had been banked.
I wavered—feral or fatly
domestic? Rakish angles or round
and round? I shed longings
like lemmings hell-bent
on precipice. I shook
it good, mellowed out, stroked
my inner spinster, whispered her
down. Maybe I mean flapper.
Some kind of pride, some kind of dancing
alone. You marry or you don’t.
There’s no light switch you can stand
there flicking, a disco of indecision,
No very fine gander to straddle mid-air.

ALLISON BARRETT received her MFA from Cornell University and has published poems in Fourteen Hills Review and cream city review. She writes in between raising three small children and working as an administrative assistant in an academic department. She’s lived in Ohio, California, and Arizona, and is getting used to the idea of staying put in Ithaca, NY.