Today's poetry for today's world

Barbara Drake


Barbara Drake is the author of Driving One Hundred published by Windfall Press (2009), Love at the Egyptian Theatre, What We Say to Strangers, Life in a Gothic Novel, Bees in Wet Weather, and Small Favors.  Her memoir, Peace at Heart: an Oregon Country Life published by Oregon State University Press was a 1999 Oregon Book Award Finalist.  Her widely used college textbook, Writing Poetry, has been in print since 1983. 


She earned her MFA from the University of Oregon and taught at Michigan State University before returning to Oregon to teach at Linfield College from 1983 to 2007.  Now officially retired, Drake enjoys teaching workshops and occasional classes as well as frequently giving readings.  The author lives on a small Yamhill County farm with her husband and their two border collies.   






Click on the book cover to buy Driving One Hundred . 








When father's airplane stopped

and we were mid‑air,

the little yellow cub continued riding

along on chilly emptiness

like a boat in a stream.

Not a heavy thing at all,

it seemed a toy plane

of paper and balsa wood

tossed up with no rider

but the painted outline

of a soldier, his helmet

and goggles classic, his head

bent to the controls.


Father coughed and grinned

to a grimace, and I said, "Anything wrong?"

"Damn thing went off," he answered.


The bay looked long and blue and beautiful

against the sand spit;

the air was also blue, and chilly.

"Ice," said father,

"in the carburetor."

And still we floated

in that nothingness,

with nothing to fear,

the nothing under us.


And father fiddled with the starter

as the ailerons rowed space

and then before we'd really lost

much altitude, maybe none, maybe

we even gained some,

the engine started and father smiled

and said, "I could land

this plane anywhere, engine or not:

a jetty, a dune, a country

highway.  I could have taken it down."


The little plane coasted

along on its rutrutrut of an engine

till we landed where mother sat

in the car at the railing,

and, "What were you doing up there?"

she asked us.  "It looked funny."

We said,





 “When the Airplane Stopped” first appeared in Hubbub.

Published in Driving One Hundred (Windfall Press, 2009).  











I went to the wall one day,

went to the machine,

punched my card in and waited

for money to come out.

Waited.  Watched the screen.


Do you need more time?

the screen asked,

the machine screen asked.

No!  I answered,

I want money

in multiples of twenty.

I want Ready Cash.


But the machine gave no Ready Cash,

asked me only:

Do you need more time?

Over and over I punched it,

swore, paced, tapped buttons,

glared at the person

staring over my shoulder.

All the machine would say was:

Do you need more time?


Disgusted, I took my card

and left it, the machine.

On reflection

I realized I missed my chance.

What have I done?

I could have said: Yes.  Yes!

A hundred years,

a thousand years,

in multiples of twenty.


It does no good,

though I go back daily

to the same place, the same machine,

slide my card in like a lover’s tongue,

wait for it to ask me.


It never asks.

All it gives

in multiples of twenty

is money.  Money.





"The Money's Paw" first appeared in Northwest.   

Published in What We Say to Strangers (Breitenbush Books, 1986).











When a woman is sad

because someone has treated her badly

or she has read of a painful thing in the newspaper

or she misses her mother

who is far away

or has died

or was not a good mother,

when she is sad for her children,

that they are lovely but mortal,

or sad for the children, not lovely,

who slipped from her like dishwater,

when she is sad for a man she did not make love with

when she was nineteen

and her belly was flat as a tight sheet,

or a man she made love with

when she was twenty

and her belly was curvy,

when she is sad for a friend’s loss,

or the loss of one who was not a friend,

when she is sad,

then the temperature of her womb drops

like the air inside a meat locker

and her ovaries flow backward.

When I think of all the sad women, their nature offended,

I’m surprised the race hasn’t ended.




Published in What We Say to Strangers (Breitenbush Books, 1986).




Writer's Tip: Pay attention to what gets your attention.   Whether we call them daydreams, obsessions, or distractions, the random thoughts and observations of any day are the writer’s material.  




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