Barry Wallenstein


Professor once, emeritus now,
he bends over his files –
old files boxed in old oak –
pulls them out by their worn tabs –
tosses bunches, small and large into the fire
in a hurry, with august anger,
and a self-mocking grin.

“That’s that for that,” he chortles,
clearing out obsolescence.
There’s a long pause before some premonition
swings into focus.
“One ending need not presage another”
is another sentence he likes to repeat.

So, he sits straight-backed,
his fingers twiddling,
practicing with his yo-yo
and conjuring time beyond limits
where, through the doors of the laboratory,
mice sing, men chirp, and women romance the moon,
while mouthing aloud a randy tune.

Chance Performance

A white pillar of sand stands
close by the New Infirmary;
mica flecks, embedded there,
glint and shimmer.

The sand fly, despite her broken wing
and all that distance flown,
knows she’s the luckiest moving object
in the territory.


for Nick Johnson

your face – once pale white
on the pillow as are your bones now
long exanimate – from the ride, the pang, the desire

ex-animate – the mighty
ex-animate – the player
ex-animate – the clowns

ex-animate – the city itself
ex-animate – firebombs and airwaves
ex-animate – the contestants
ex-animate – prayer

your face again – colors vibrant and unforeseen –
animates all flesh – the famous, the dressed up, the natural fool,
in a whorl of recall

Barry Wallenstein is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent being At the Surprise Hotel and Other Poems [Ridgeway Press, 2016] and Drastic Dislocations: New and Selected Poems [New York Quarterly Books, 2012]. His poetry has appeared in over 100 journals, including Ploughshares, The Nation, and American Poetry Review. A special interest is his presentation of poetry readings in collaboration with jazz. He has made nine recordings of his poetry with jazz, the most recent being Lisbon Sunset (2018), What Was, Was (2015) and Lucky These Days (2013). Barry is Emeritus Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the City University of New York and an editor of the journal, American Book Review. He is currently co-editor of BigCityLit