Eric Steineger


Not quite an island, not quite a boat, You,
Barge, exist only to haulers or poets like me,
an ecology of iron floating downriver.
On the banks, people pause to study
your features for three seconds.

On your face, a V-shaped wire called a bridle.
Gunwales absent color. A towing thing
like a monster from your hull. It’s smart
to wear gloves on a barge. It’s smart
to wear gloves.

But what is ugly can be beautiful.
Apparently, some barges dress for occasions.
Like on the canals in Venice.

Once, I did a shoot on a barge in San Pedro.
Wore a black overcoat like James Dean.
Oliver took photos. Everything was fine
until cops showed up.

Let’s not forget what you do.
Carry cargo on water, sometimes
to different countries in which case
a carnet is signed. In transit, a ghost.

On arrival, a ghost no more.
A quantity. Some barges are small.

What happens to a barge when it dies?
Maybe the junkyard turns garden.
Nothing abandoned goes unclaimed,
though I want to, again, set foot on You,

Barge, one step from wreckage,
one step from marvel, bringer of bulk,
inspirer of calluses, nothing exists like you.

Eric Steineger is the Managing Editor and Senior Poetry Editor of The Citron Review. His work has been featured in Waxwing, Rattle: The Poets Respond, Tinderbox, The Los Angeles Review, and other places. His chapbook, From a Lisbon Rooftop, is based on Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and is available at Plan B Press. Occasionally, he curates poetry events at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. He lives in Asheville with his wife and daughter. 

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