This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Barbara Claire Freeman. 

Replacement Songs

No one cares who the donor

is they detach photographs

of tiny clouds from their fold

stare at the darkroom how 

quiet it was, the image

has already been sent 

the arches yellow or turquoise

fireflies cover the ceiling, they

carry nothing that belongs to me


Day is gone but not the sun

at one o’clock in the past

the living room grows even

if I’m dreaming Congressmen 

text all day into their hands

then disappear among arcades and food trucks

like the instant message the donor is


An experiment called soon

I’ll fall asleep in your pick-up 

beyond the near grey mountains

smiling up at the moon and

here’s one called the park is vanishing

what I am trying to say is


Also, another blade of wheat

just run the poem backward through 

white hibiscus opening at night  

and that photo I’ll never forget

if he had explosives strapped to his chest

the more we give the less we share

three or four hills and cloud, a line in snow


Looks invisible against the sky

and the sky responds is it time for one 

run-on sentence fusing sinuous free-verse lines

with something I haven’t done since birth

I have toes     I have fingernails

I had a real choice. If I had to, I’d choose

Sundays I rarely leave the house



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).