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Julie Brooks Barbour

Neighborhood of Passing Fancies

Past the Railroad Crossing


Neighborhood of Passing Fancies

I wanted to see him again, but only his face,
not his body or gait. In the landscape I created,

his head bobbed over sidewalks and in front
of brownstones. He peered from a window

with a half-grin, his dark eyes sparked
by a passing thought, or he waited

at the bus stop, face suspended over a bench,
brown hair framing his jawline. 

When I distinctly remembered a phrase
he spoke or gesture he made, I wanted him

gone, and then he was nowhere: the window
curtained, a neighborhood deserted.

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Past the Railroad Crossing

You cross the train tracks in your car,
following the face from your dreams, the one

that lures you toward sleep, soft like dusk and fog.
A man with this face works in a two-story building

past the tracks where he cuts lumber, his coveralls
probably coated in sawdust and smelling of cedar.

Never once have you touched him or heard his voice.
You wait for a glimpse of him towards 5:00 pm,

the hour of leaving and fifteen minutes before the train
rumbles past. You keep your distance, parked

at the edge of the property, close to the road
for a quick getaway. No one must know

how you found him or followed him here,
or how you watch and wait. Once you catch a flash

of his face, you’re gone before the red warning lights blink,
before the crossing arm swings down.

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A boyfriend taught you to steal small things:
lighters from convenience stores, earrings from boutiques,

and coins from your parents’ house.
He advised and trained you from a narrow alley

no one would frequent. This would become
your pathway once you learned the city.

You were not his only student but the speed
of your nimble fingers impressed him.

When chased by police, you darted through alleyways
and jumped over trashcans, skirted the arrest

of other suspects. You were so quick you never wore
a disguise. No one could draw your likeness fast enough.

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Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of Small Chimes (Aldrich Press, 2014) and two chapbooks: Earth Lust (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, Four Way Review, diode, storySouth, Prime Number Magazine, burntdistrict, The Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, Blue Lyra Review, and Verse Daily. She is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing and an Associate Poetry Editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. She teaches composition and creative writing at Lake Superior State University.

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