In The Black Ocean, poet Brian Barker attempts to make sense of some of the darkest chapters in history while peering forward to what lies ahead as the world totters in the wake of human complacence. Unveiled here are ruminations on human torture, the Chernobyl disaster, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and genocide against Native Americans. The ghosts of Lincoln, Poe, and Billie Holiday manifest from pages laden with grim prophecies and catastrophes both real and imagined. These hauntingly intense documentary poems reflect on the past in an attempt to approach it with more clarity and understanding, while offering blistering insight into the state of the world today. Barker touches upon the power of manipulation and class oppression; the depths of fear and the struggle for social justice; and reveals how failure to act—on the parts of both politicians and everyday citizens—can have the most devastating effects of all.
Throughout the volume looms the specter of the black ocean itself, a powerful metaphor for all our collective longings and despair, as we turn to face a menacing and uncertain future.
Lullaby for the Last Night on Earth
When at last we whisper, so long, so lonesome,
and watch our house on the horizon
go down like a gasping zeppelin of bricks,
we’ll turn, holding hands,
and walk the train tracks to the sea . . .
So sing me that song where a mountain falls
in love with an octopus, and one thousand fireflies
ricochet around their heads,
and I’ll dream we’re dancing in the kitchen one last time,
swaying, the window a waystation
of flaming leaves, the dogs shimmying
about our legs,
dragging their golden capes of rain . . .
O my critter, my thistle, gal-o-my-dreams,
lift your voice like an oar into the darkness,
for all the sad birds are falling down—
Nothing in this night is ours.