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FREE ASSOCIATIONS: Selections of Free Verse, by Bob Barancik

Read by Roxanne Fay, a Tampa Bay actress, novelist, and playwright.

I stared at the brick wall for hours and it became a door. I opened it and a cat ran out—or maybe I am mistaken. It might have been my mind covered with fur that scampered
into the dark night. This poem came much too quickly and then slowed down and almost
stopped. The last line is not what I expected… or hoped for.

My studio is my temple; my easel is my altar; white canvas are my prayer shawl and
shroud; and my paint soaked brush is a flickering candle.

This poem is being monitored for “quality assurance” regarding patriarchy, gender
neutrality, racial neutrality, net neutrality, political neutrality, Islamaphobia, Jew jokes,
Jesus jokes, references to Donald Trump/Richard Nixon/GeorgeW, references to
immigrants, people-of-color,traces of peanut or soy. For any complaints email the
complaint department at iGottacomplaint dot edu, dot org. dot com. dot net, dot biz. For
any suggestions visit the “Suggestion Box” on the dark far side of the moon. For any
miscellaneous issues or constructive criticisms relating to rhyme schemes (internal or
external), assonance or dissonance, meter or general metaphorical opacity, there is no
need to get involved. And there is absolutely no need to concern yourself over onomatopoeia.
You have been warned!

Things fell apart and the center did not hold. The crazy people got crazier. The sane
ones just gave up without a shrug and fixated on their navel or the gyrations of the stock
market. The incessant news-from-nowhere dispenses its dyspeptic dystopian
digressions and obsessions 24/7, all for free to the land of the free and home of the
naive. How does one stay standing when the ground is shaking and foundations are
giving way? Rub your forehead with CBD oil and assume the fetal position and cry out
loud for “mother.”

I memorized a poem and the poem mesmerized me. I recited a psalm and the psalm
held me in the palm of its left hand. I forgot the lyrics to the song and just hummed a
fragment of unfettered melody.

I feast on indignation and starve on resignation. I puff myself up and try to see around
the corner. I question myself and everyone within earshot—to no avail.

It is like screaming at a deaf beggar or cooking roast pork loin with rosemary for an
orthodox Jew or arguing with a parent who is long dead. We fill our head with futile
gestures and absurdities and demand the world to be different than it is.

Muddling through is the best I can do. There is a booming buzzing confusion without a
radiant spiritual fusion. I listen to a TEDtalk and take a walk and hug the hard bark backs
of oak trees as the world fractures into have & have nots—humans and bots.

I listen to the crickets ringing in my ears but hear your voice. I listen to the waves beat
against the deaf beach but hear your sweet smile. I listen to the iPhone bleating like a
lost lamb and hear your worries.

Let me be myself without blue smoke and mirrors but fully awake. You can be yourself
without worry or effort but fully awake. They can be themselves with their masks and
make up and never wake up.

I thought that I saw a gray mouse in the grass… but on closer inspection it was just a
discarded piece of old steel wool. I thought that I saw a white sheep dog in the pale blue
summer sky but turned out to be just a misshapen cumulus cloud. I thought that I saw
God in my prayers… but my mind’s eye is always playing tricks on me.

I see tiny black ants scurry over and between the weathered wood planks of a park
bench. They seem to be on some sort of a mission… They zig and zag and
hesitate…start & stop—and all I can think of are middle managers working through
their corporate karma.

If you must you can. Draw a line in the sand and mean it. Be a man without the

Most unfinished business remains unfinished. Someone else has to clean up the mess.
The silver spoons remain tarnished waiting the touch of a soft rag to restore their bright
sheen. Lines of poetry demand a rhyme scheme—but I can only provide a tangled
armature of free verse.


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