Bio of B.E. Stock

BIO OF B. E. STOCK B. E. Stock has been writing poetry since the age of eight, and has lived in New York City since age 16. She studied...

Hi, friends. If you have not come here before, please check out my first few posts to see what published work I have available. What I am doing now is sharing some of the poetry I have written since my Collected Poems came out in 2001. Until the past few years, they have been placed in different folders based on the form. Now I want to display a few ballad type poems.


A hushed cathedral of the mind
Whose aisles were filled with thought;
A shelter from the stormy wind
Where knowledge could be caught;

A fellowship of centuries
Within the English tongue,
Where any child could be a king
And every bard was young;

Where relics could be taken out
And grace your bed at home,
And cheer you as you walked about,
And still be just a loan;

Where books were never bought, but shared,
And never hurt at all,
And every great idea was dared
That made the heart grow tall.


The bricks or pipes remain in place
But wind and water travel through
And tumble all upon the ground
Unless they have cement or glue.
You must inspect, you must renew,
For tightest joints become unsound
When weather does what it will do,
And solid walls at last unlace.

Beware, for all the unity
The body and the country know
Is like a cloud upon the sea
Before it dissipates in snow.
What sets the eyes and cheeks aglow
And brings your kisses home to me?
What blocks the wind that wants to blow
And crumble down society?

That principle within the bone
Beyond the ken of all on earth?
That tremor of the great rebirth,
That origin of cell and stone?


Her hand upon the door post
She gazes far away
Perhaps at other children
In loud contentious play

Perhaps at inner visions
Beginning to come clear -
We saw the picture breathing
In that so distant year.

Her arms and legs were gleaming
Under the summer sun
Her life was all before her
And yet she did not run

But cautiously and stilly
Surveyed it from afar.
Strange how bereft of innocence
Some little children are.

These poems are like songs, and some would say sing-songs. But, of course, the thing about songs is that they can be sung in different ways to create dynamics, emphasis, delay. This is clearer when there is a melody, but experienced readers can respond as though the melody were there. The devices of poetry are, among other things, a device for remembering, so it is smart to use songlike forms. If you try to memorize a free verse poem, you may have a lot more trouble than if there is rhyme or strict rhythm to trigger your recollection! On the other hand, the option to use other forms or no apparent form is good for us all. There are more opportunities for surprise and for having things rip open on us. In the last poem here, note the form is broken just once, when I point to the girl being bereft of innocence - there is an extra beat. The reality of her state of mind does not fit into the romantic notion that little children are innocent. One of my first, also a ballad type poem, ended with a line of two syllables. Already at age 8 I was playing around with form.

Love, Barbara
Hi, friends.

Today I'd like to share some more traditional type poems I have written since I published my Collected Poems in 2001.


The population suffered, and the minister,
Peevish at being questioned, forced to stir
From his family den with its comfortable chair,
Thundered forth an appropriate condemnation
Of universal sin and sin’s occasion,
And then went off on his usual vacation.

But in a little park something occurred
Between a pigeon and another bird
That left us comforted and strangely stirred.

The pigeon cried, and sat upon the lawn,
Its head all tarry and its tail all torn,
And doubting it would see another dawn.
The starling feathered down and then was still,
Removed a flea or two with gentle skill,
Ensured the sorry end was not a kill.


So you have died. So this will never heal,
Never make sense as far as I can tell.

Your disapproval and my gossiping,
Beneath it all the nervous fear that clung,
The sickness all around us, poisoned love –
A friendship that became too good to live.

The rifts estranged, in spite of all we shared,
Till every fragrant flower became a shard.

Yet something in me dies, now you are dead,
That only you, and briefly, understood.

In hating I have loved you – oh, too well,
Too badly – I have cared enough to fail.


In vain our mother sent us out to play –
We knew what mattered, how she sat intent
And quiet as a fisher in the sun,
Her desk light with its concentrated beam
Choosing the meat of anything she read,
Her index cards amassing in the tray.
And we had seen our father ply the lead
And hunt the keys amid the garish gleam
Of newsroom light, his back grotesquely bent
To the low table, on some wasted day
Mom left us there, to get her errands done.

We quarreled, laughed or climbed the dirt in vain,
Miming the spontaneity we saw
In other children, while the precious years
Bled out to sea, and waited for the time
We could distill the meaning of our tears,
Shut out the world, its clamor and disdain,
Gather our joys, and start that inner climb,
And be at last what we beheld with awe.

THE INJURY (9/11/10)

The things I did just weeks ago,
The sex, the worship, and the spin
On my beloved bike, now glow
With wonder that remains within.

I did those things – will do again!
And yet the doubt begins to blur
The cadence of that bold Amen –
I do not dare to be so sure.

It was the anniversary
Of such a strange and evil day
My happiness deserted me
My joy was not allowed to stay.

In that frenetic time, there was,
I now admit, a secret fear,
A menace lurking just because
That awful date again was here.

My face will bear a little scar
When pain and struggle finally cease
To show my soul has traveled far,
And surely qualifies for peace.

Love, Barbara
Hi, friends.

I'd like to share a few of what I call my sprawl poems, written after 9/11. I worked right near the site of the attack, and for some time afterwards I was blocked. When I started writing again it was in a new way, spilling out as I contacted my love of life and of the city, and started mending a broken marriage. I am including one poem, "The Fugitive", which was published in an-on line journal called In Our Own Words  in fall of 1997, before 9/11, but is written in a similar style. "Comfort" was published in Lalitamba in 2006.


I came upon a giant doorway, and saw beyond it
Acres of yellow light and green branches waving in a breeze
And felt from beyond it the breath of a peace I had not known
For many years. And I wanted to pass through, but could not,
Although no obstacle presented itself, and I walked up to it
Hundreds of times, and my foot would not take the step
Into its shadow, and my heart throbbed in my throat,
Throbbed in my head, and I withdrew, and paced back and forth
In front of the place where I wanted to go.

After a few years I began to live by the doorway,
And saw people passing through easily, one by one,
Laughing and chatting with friends and family
As though there were nothing to it, and I saw
Others try once or twice, and fall back in dismay,
And go away weeping. And a few of them
Even recognized, by my forlorn face and how
I was there the whole time, that we had
The same heartache, and shook my hand,
And so returned to where they had been before.

But I could not forget, but I could not go back,
But I could not go on as though this had never
Happened to me. And after some time,
People began to ask about the place, and I had
All sorts of information I had gathered or heard,
And they camped at the doorway too, and we shared
Many beautiful moments of longing and compassion,
And told our stories, and watched the seasons
Of our lives go by, and held each other through
The long nights of suffering, and laughed together,
And wove garlands from the flowers that grew there.

And the sky glowed pink and orange as the stars
Vanished, on the day that seemed like any other,
And I looked for the doorway, but it was gone.
And we all wondered what had happened
To this great reality that had broken our hearts
And brought us together. And a child pointed
To a wall in the distance, through which
We could just make out a little archway where darkness
And bitterness lurked, but could not pass through
To where we were, and it was then
That we began the dance of our joy.


Before he could be arrested for murder and robbery
The man had commenced a completely different life
In another city, working in a frame shop, living
Above a store. He told a story that his wife and child
Had died in a blaze, and everyone was drawn
To his quiet sweetness. Eventually the waitress in the diner
Fell in love with him, and they married and had two little girls,
And bought a prefab house in a new development
On the edge of town. He joined a bowling club,
Worked for the gym, and sold the most raffle tickets
At the church fair twice a year. By the time they found him,
He had stopped looking in the mirror and remembering
The nightmare – the blood, the gun, the bag full of cash,
The dash to the car, the long bus ride. He helped out
A new man in town, a traveling salesman from his native city,
And when the salesman was home they would go for a drink.
One day the salesman asked where he came from
And on hearing the answer gazed at him with a troubled frown
Paid his bill and ambled off to the men’s room. Later
He came to the house with the cops and said, “Carl,”
Which was not his name any more, and the fugitive
Stood there shocked and pale, and they took him away.
He could have been safe if he had not forgotten,
If he had not wanted a friend, or missed his native city,
Or become so harmless and trusting that even the police
Conducted him gently, and the story in the local paper
Depicted him as the victim of some unforeseen catastrophe.


Take this ring, but do not put it on.
Carry it in your pocket, bring it to the bottom of your dreams
To be tested against the color of your coral reef,
Your striped fish, the abundant weeds and rocky cliffs
I will never see. Take this ring, but do not put it away
Among the others in your mother of pearl box
Whose tinny music hinders the robbery that would
In any case be discontinued, given the oddity
Of your crosses, your holy face, your herald angels,
None of which can really be fenced. Carry this ring
To the office and the women’s room, the subway
And the café full of jazz and pastry, put it on
Your writing desk among the pens and notebooks,
Next to the Chinese tea mug, the pine cone
And the emergency flashlight, let its purple stone
Gleam on the stand of your computer
And next to the bowl of cereal in your kitchen,
Have it appraised and know the value of its gold.
And when you are alone in your captain’s bed
(For you are the captain of your soul, the commander
Being mostly absent, entrusting to you the steering
You are known for), hold this ring and ponder
Whether we can stay for 30, 40, 50 years,
Beyond the jobs, watching one another weaken
And sicken and disintegrate without running away,
Reduced perhaps to a single room with strangers
Bustling around us at unpredictable intervals,
Only to let go at the shore of the last journey
And lose our other selves when nothing else is left.

And when you return, do not tell me
But hold yourself around this ring so I will know,
And let your eyes reflect how that inner light of yours
Values the pulse of desire in the stone, answers
The words behind my words, and before you say it,
Give me a sigh as deep as the ocean of your soul,
So I know I may enter through the door of that moment
Known only to you and me, and never look back,
Even if we live for three hundred years,
Even if we never die at all.


In the midst of a great disaster, when for once
I was content to be able to buy the paper
And have my eggs in the coffee shop, while the waitress
Gazed in relief at every customer who was not bleeding
Or covered with ashes or coming in with a bruised face
Or wearing a wet or filthy uniform, and I was not at all
Annoyed by loud voices or the blender of the chuff and whine
Of the bus miraculously passing by on the avenue,
You, with your generous proportions, your plain face
With the big broken nose and awkward glasses, the floral dress
Tugged and wrinkled as you sat in the corner booth,
Looked so familiar that I kept on looking, and apologized,
Explaining you looked so familiar, and finally had to ask
Your name, which you gave, and then I remembered
We used to say hello at a church in a different part of the city,
And march through the aisle with a hundred people
Praising the God of bread, or sit in wondering silence
Awaiting the Presence to be able to say I love you.
I remembered how I sang and wept and fainted there,
Lost in clouds of Presence, but I just smiled because
You were there, and here, and I saw how all things
Come together on the other side of the tapestry
As they say, or a fraction of it.
Then I moved to your booth, and you spoke of teaching Russian
And going to Russia with a saint, and exercising on the beach
At dawn, and going to a graveyard to be able to talk,
And I listened in amazement as the little capsule of someone
I used to see somewhere else opened in front of me,
And a whole world was in there.

Then you closed your pocketbook, said to have a good day,
And limped out with your cane and your bad teeth,
And I finished my coffee as I gazed out at the people
Slowly closing their hands and feet and minds
Around the details of getting from here to there,
Each one a geode full of onyx, pyrite and sapphires,
Leaf skeletons and dinosaur footprints,
Until the sun began to slant, and I nodded, overwhelmed,
And glanced through the paper to be reassured,
By the disaster, the scandal, the noise and debris,
The impersonal jabber of it all, that I could still skate
Over the mystery, and get home to the continuing snarl
Of jammed telephones, insane computers, rotten air,
Lack of trains to the center, the drama of fear and anger
And loneliness, and escape (for now) the enormity
Of what it is to be you, to be anyone, lost in the midst
Of millions of other stories
Opening secretly into the infinity of existence.

I am hoping to find other poetic souls and places open to both rhymed and unrhymed, strictly metric and looser and syllabic poems, and definitely the spiritual dimension. Here's to more and better!

Love, Barbara