Randy Evan Barlow
I call them my pirates: this handful of pills I swallow each night.
All eight of them together, down the hatch they go.
They have a purpose in mind, a goal—to find and destroy
intruders that have found their way into my vessel—
but as all careless pirates do, they pillage and plunder,
forgetting that the ship they set upon to save, they may also sink.
You say that you love me. I know that you do.
But a thousand leagues separate word from deed, thought from action.
As you pursue every passing distraction, I feel your glance
checking if I’m still here, the same. That I haven’t followed
an unseen path without being noticed after all these years
is a wonder to me—and perhaps sometimes to you—but it is love.
Love has kept me from vanishing, and keeps you from seeing
this ship ripping apart from the inside out. The wind fades. I’m slowing,
preoccupied with these intruders, wishing you would quicken
your step, catch me before I fall—
Randy Evan Barlow was the partner of poet Ron Mohring. Ron is the author of the poetry collection Survivable World (Word Works, 2004), winner of the 2003 Washington Prize and finalist for the Thom Gunn Award in Poetry from the Publishing Triangle. Ron is also the founding editor of Sevens Kitchen Press. Ron provided the following statement about Randy and the provenance of this poem: “Randy was a sign language interpreter for many years until a progressive tremor ended his career. He lived with HIV and it’s complications through our entire 19 years together. I found this poem, the only one he ever wrote, among his papers after his sudden death in December 2014.”
This poem was written in November 2005 and submitted by Ron Mohring in care of the estate of Randy Barlow. It is not previously published.