from Her Scant State


Barbara Tomash





impunity               heterogeneous

nationality            disavowed

houses                  resembling

innermost             ornaments

shifting                 break-up

death                    domicile


(I had to trouble you

with her thought)











If she should suffer hush—warm and windless—and the air—and brightness of blackbird. Lifting higher. A country with a complex intention—the dispersal of little—common charity, fortunate formula in want. Her errand was over. She had extracted from it a kind of shudder—there was a penetrating. Chill in the garden—gave no sound, but, very simple dying. Good evening. He left her, of course he left her. What do you think?











is that the right phrase—one is nobody?

the opera is very bad         the women sing

go home and leave this sad place


no, I must watch over her











It struck her as an object recognized—house, letter, bench, folds of a dress, twilight grown thick—grasped by the wrist, comet in the sky—she had never been loved before. Bottomless world to beat with her feet—the noise of water.











native and foreign now arrived in numbers

at the door of a house of floating fragments











Her hands folded on the edge of the table. As the lid of a box opened into immeasurable space, midnight came back. But not the hours she had come for. In a voice that was not fear, “I think I can say something.” She sank. Thin hand begged the sensation of life, the sense we remain—not to lose you. Broken.











no, no, never

nothing, nothing, nothing


nothing has had to be undone

how much of it is there?


I’ll investigate and report to you











America, an abbreviated table. Reaching out for some dregs. Trembling a little.











a dictionary     a proof of stones

fluency of fretted hills     

human-looking      angles of a woman’s

enquiry        ashamed of       “permitted”

the country I cared for      to wish it

altered      upon the violet slope











On the day she was changed enough, she stopped. At last uninhabited. Latent. She wore a little grey dress, very thin, good for the wish (the same you had before). That one. Voluminous.








Barbara Tomash is the author of four books of poetry, PRE- (Black Radish Books, 2018), Arboreal (Apogee, 2014), Flying in Water, which won the 2005 Winnow First Poetry Award, and The Secret of White (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009).  An earlier version of PRE- was a finalist for the Colorado Prize and the Rescue Press Black Box Poetry Prize.  Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Web Conjunctions, New American Writing, Verse, VOLT, OmniVerse, Witness, and numerous other journals.  She lives in Berkeley, California, and teaches in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.