Pickup Fifty-Two by David Barrick

I am the man with nine fingers
in a jar. The man who is one finger
short of a hand. The man who hides
a boy in his belly. The boy who won’t go
belly up. The man who smiles too
quickly, laughs at the wrong line of the joke.
The boy who swims with a torn dorsal fin.
The man who grasps a harpoon. The whale
who wishes he were a man. The whale whose vision
dims the deeper he goes, who sees double.
The boy who keeps one man in the mirror, another
in the woods out back. The woodshed becoming
a man at night. Padlocked golem, shivering
timbers. A sliver in the finger
of the boy, his whole hand soaking
in Epsom salts. His whole body a hand.
The boy who fingerpaints the face
of a father in beach sand. The man who jolts
awake in class, too big for his britches.
The boy who whittles the man down
to a hatchet-faced king. The buzz
of a card deck spraying the floor. The man grown
tired of boy’s games, his back too sore
to bend over and pick up the mess, who confesses
I am the boy, rooted belly-deep, cutting
the deck and dealing again.

Margo LaPierre on “Pickup Fifty-Two”

This piece riffles through language and time with surprising, quiet horror and time-piercing introspection. A mythic quality suffuses the man, the hand, the mirror, the deck, the woods out back. Laconic yet iterative, this beguiling poem speaks playfully of age and holds its secrets like a sliver in the finger.


(update provided in 2023) David Barrick is the author of the poetry collection Nightlight (Palimpsest Press, 2022) as well as two chapbooks. His work appears (or is forthcoming) in Grain, The FiddleheadPrairie FireBest Canadian Poetry 2024and other publications. He lives in London, ON, and is managing director of Antler River Poetry.

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