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July 13, 2020 / barton smock

{ infant & shuteye, 2016 }

well 2016



god save mantra. the baby. the unicorn tantrum. god save the ventriloquist. the museum of shrinking things. the things themselves. the angel working the knots from an extension cord. the exodus followed by the exodus of my father’s turtles. god save the condom. the flag of the scrotum. the handcuffed mother of sleepwalking illegals.


lordy that’s a lot of people

observes the refugee. what the dream tells us about the headache is worth repeating.


I cross my legs in the soul’s bathroom and suck on the business end of a squirtgun. if I jerk enough, I can make the newspapered floor into a headline that reads season slows for Ohio toddlers. I can’t remember the last time a toddler ran past me or, for that matter, the last time a toddler ran. god save the translucent. the abused are never more alone than when their…

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July 9, 2020 / barton smock

2019 then

wrote the below to no one last year on July 9th.

my grandmother passed away shortly after, and my grandfather shortly after that:


I don’t believe, or I do, or I have questions. it doesn’t matter. I guess it doesn’t matter. regardless, grief shows a boy how to position the hands to play with nothing. stances become a skillset. what I want to say is that my grandmother is having a surgery tomorrow that no matter how it goes is going to change a course or two. I saw her today and even in her frail state she asked about my children and made a soft meaningful joke about the grey in my beard. I hope she’s okay forever.


these two poems came on that same day:

[correct ache]

an angel leaves heaven to touch paper as a circle from my childhood rolls toward an empty jack-in-the-box. I am old enough to be sad and too old to separate deer facts from church facts. my children fall asleep before their hands fall asleep.

[clean ache]

punched in our stomachs for remembering the sea, we are in a church that goes to church. it is here that a drop of god’s blood can change paper into plastic and here that bread is the bread and butter of hunger and hunger the oldest child in nothing’s choir. here that I count for a son who cannot count. for a son who sleeps on land on the lamb of his illness. (water is still the smallest toy and our mouths still come

from the same


so, anyway, I hope we are able to put things back together and return déjà vu its aftermath

July 6, 2020 / barton smock

traced perhaps for a terrible circle, today was mostly your hand. (edits, deletions, 2017 and life under bell)

traced perhaps for a terrible circle, today was mostly your hand.

on video my cousin is singing a song she’s learned by heart. she’s maybe four. I don’t know where to begin. this pond behind her, perhaps? that in my memory is the size of a fire pit. or maybe, here, in the darkening sameness of those sentences strung together by cows. or years from now, even, with the word no and her sister’s lookalike being assaulted by an only child in a library of fragile non-fiction. my cousin is singing a song she’s learned by heart. she’s five. a careful six. sound’s fossil. no city half-imagined. no insect obsessed with privacy. time matters to the frog we catch.


there are days he is the son of muscle memory and funny bone. days his hands are gloves from a small god. poor god, he says, and grows. days he can carry a circle to any clock in the town of hours. days his past can be heard by his siblings- you’re beautiful the way you are. days his blood pushes a bread crumb through his thigh. days his scar is a raft for ear number three. nights his brain / the separation of church and church.


violence is a dreamer. a boy on a stopped bus is dared to eat a worm. it feels authentic. alas, there is no worm. the devil knows to stay pregnant. word spreads about the girl without a tongue. cricket lover. and then, bulimic, when she won’t sneeze.


the mother of your hand is smashing spiders with her wrist. we have a high-chair for every creature that eats its own hair. the twins in the attic have switched diapers. skeptics. voices heard by the ghost of my stomach.


it is snowing the first time my daughter drives alone. Ohio is cruel. stillbirth, old four-eyes. you want them to like you. the insects you save.


a lawnmower starts then dies then is pushed by a noisemaker past fog’s dark church. an unprepared prophet drinks the milk meant for baby eyesore. my sister loses most of her hair putting together a puzzle of her mouth. a bomb is dropped on a bomb.


we put a museum on the moon. I had all my dreams at once. a mouse was wrapped in a washcloth then crushed with the songbook of baby hairless. fire treats grass like fire.


and in the spacecraft where a mother diapers the doll that makes her fat there plays the voice of god asking for a film crew none will miss


we wore clothes as an apology for being nearby. a door was a door. a ghost was a ghost and a door. the house was possible. its rooms were not. baby was a body spat from the mouth of any creature dreaming of a bathtub. I got this lifejacket from a scarecrow. said the redheaded tooth fairy.


his baby is wailing in its crib for its mother and he mans you up for a cigarette and blows on the baby’s face and somewhere you yourself have stopped crying as you are pulled from a pile of leaves by two people made of smoke


sickness in the young is god’s way of preventing nostalgia from becoming the god I remember


I was beautiful but now I’m ugly. (now) being the most recognizable symbol of the present. this is the silence I speak of. my son says (more ball) and you hear (moon bone). he is very sick. his moon has bones.


we don’t come out faking our death, but are born because birth can’t sleep

July 4, 2020 / barton smock

from ( diets of the resurrected )

I don’t care what the image has gone through to get here, as long as it’s not me who’s seen god. Before the movie starts, a father asks a mother could she love an arsonist in a wheelchair and she answers no. Most scenes you pretend to pull the unkissed ear of a secret child. The movie ends and I’m not sure how long I’ve been wet. Touch is diversion’s heavy reward. The afterlife a shortcut to loneliness.

June 30, 2020 / barton smock

but here we are putting our fingers in the boy’s mouth

rare for an angel to want its own ghost

all fish
hate god

June 25, 2020 / barton smock

works, where, and

my small press writing day entry:


on my collection Ghost Arson, an interview by Crystal Stone for Flyway Journal:

Interview with Barton Smock, Author of “Ghost Arson”


poems elsewhere:


poems, inquiries:





Ghost Arson (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2018)
via paypal (
or Venmo @Barton-Smock-1

review by Dd. Spungin:

review by George Salis:

at Cruel Garters:

I’ve been reading “Boy Musics,” a prose poem in the book Ghost Arson by Barton Smock. The poem perfectly captures that rarely whispered vulnerability that comes with being a boy (being human.) The poem opens with the speaker and his companion “counting cigarettes on the roof of a closed sex shop in Ohio,” an apt setting to explore what is open, what might be okay to share. The speaker shares that his father is gay; the companion shares “three poems by [his] dead sister, the third of which she called dead sister.” These kids are doomed, as left to their Mid-American whatever as Ohio, as passed over as the lower middle class. It’s “too late for crow and all the deer have been hit.”

Still, there’s a tenderness here. Poetry survives unlikely odds, as does sex. Smock confesses only what needs confessing. The poem and its companions in Ghost Arson never fail to surprise in their detail, and they never flinch as they stare down the big themes: “a vacuum runs below us. you ask me if I’ve ever wanted to see her handwriting. it’s nothing like yours but maybe one day.” These lines that conclude the poem give me shivers. This whole business is visceral. I love the book, but seeing the handwriting might break my heart.

-Glen Armstrong



works, privately self published:

animal masks on the floor of the ocean, 124 pages, June 2019
Motherlings, 52 pages, June 2019
an old idea one had of stars, 58 pages, February 2020

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all self-published collections are free with request made to

or with donation of any amount
via paypal (
or Venmo @Barton-Smock-1

June 24, 2020 / barton smock

all these anxiety machines

but no one to fix
an invisible

June 23, 2020 / barton smock

from ( diets of the resurrected )

It is a secret life that denies the double. From grief to grief goes a new strain of quiet. Rain of quiet, we wrote earlier. Did you know we were together? No god but this ghost of a thing that never was.

June 20, 2020 / barton smock


in every house a late arriving room

I remember
more often than you
being poor

god talks that way to distract the mourners

June 17, 2020 / barton smock


A mid-day animal on land dumbstruck by the holy effort it takes to forget god. The nocturnal grief of apples. Alien and angel having a quiet moment before abducting from the high-dive our least favorite swimmer. The naming of the star my cigarettes worship. A pawprint sleeping on a heartbroken whale.