Jon Barrows

The Deck

I loved playing card games as a kid:

Rummy, War, Crazy Eight, Slap Jack,


but Go Fish was one of my favorites.

I had a special deck of cards,


a different fish drawn on the card face:

sawfish with a long, toothed nose


sawing a piece of wood; flying fish,

propeller beanie cap on its head;


sunfish wearing a pair of shades.

Do you have a catfish?


Go Fish! You never knew

what you were going to catch,


but sometimes you got what you needed.

Is that how fishermen feel these days?


Can I have a Codfish?


Go Fish! Each turn, I draw

something else, a tuna, a goldfish.


Did someone stack the deck? I begin to despair

of ever finding a match. I give you


my last flounder, then you ask

for a shark, and I tell you to Go Fish!


Turn after turn, I grow more suspicious,

the cards are supposed to come in pairs;


we reach the end of the deck,

still no match; I panic,


look under the couch, search the floor,

where could the missing card have gone?


This will change the way we play

forever, and suddenly


it doesn’t feel like a game anymore.

Porch Sitting, Washington, D.C.


There are approximately two good days

between winter’s chill drear and summer’s

swelter, days when the sun licks

your hand and the wind tussles your hair;

people crowd porches and sip Coronas,

the trees wear their new shirts, lime green,

and pollen’s blanket has been washed

from the sky, and the sky is an unbroken

blue dome bending overhead, as far

as the eye can witness. A good year

might bring more, three, four days, sometimes

a week—you never quite know ‘til they’re gone:

the sun begins to slobber and drool,

the wind’s gone home and the sky

presses down with its moist hands.

It’s not that people stop sitting

on their porches, just that the swamp

buried beneath this city reaches with fingers

like manacles from the grave to make sure

we share the torment of our presence here.



Jon Barrows is a Maine native who recently relocated to Boston after seven years in Washington, D.C. He has been a teacher and grassroots organizer and currently works as a data analyst in the education sector. He has also organized events and workshops around National Poetry Writing Month with Bloombars, a community art space. His work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart, StepAway Magazine, and Written River.



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