His Sign Asks for Water

WBPC Winner - Pushcart Nominee

He can’t see where everyone goes each day
and doesn’t care where they sleep,
but where they dream when they return
to their night place past this place
on the pavement, where he sits against the wall
and reads. He doesn’t need much—like his pants
he sews again and again, and the thin pages
of his Bible, but the psalms don’t wither.
Here he sings in Akan. Here, too, he sleeps.
When he dreams, the clouds open
to water, a mirror of the purest light
where the shadows disappear.
When the rain comes, he soaks it in.
His skin and soul looking for God
glow like God who saw the man he once saw
with a ring of fire around his neck,
consumed by the shrieks into voices
of weaverbirds. After the gang surrounded
the man, Joseph could not breathe
as the man grew unseen. For how long
Joseph did not speak—still that radiance
has not dissolved but lightened
his bones, and some days he just
disappears, leaving the pavement washed.

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About the Author

Barbara Siegel Carlson's third collection of poems What Drifted Here was published by Cherry Grove Collections in 2023. Her previous books are Once in Every Language (Kelsay Books 2017) and Fire Road (Dream Horse Press 2013). A chapbook Between the Hours was published in 2022. She is the co-translator of Look Back, Look Ahead, Selected Poems of Srečko Kosovel and co-editor of A Bridge of Voices: Contemporary Slovene Poetry and Perspectives. Carlson is a Poetry in Translation Editor of Solstice. She teaches in Boston and lives in Carver, Massachusetts.