by Claudia M. Stanek

An old barn, photo by Thom Milkovic
Photo by Thom Milkovic@Unsplash

The outbuilding stands at the edge of the way-back, in front of the pines the breeze directs to sing in unison. Its pale grey exterior blinds when the sun escapes cotton ball clouds the lake fills the sky with in the heating afternoon. Its walls, like a torso holding life tight, don’t buckle when the rumbling begins. The hens within its care flutter and squawk off their nests until the ground settles and the structure rests secure on the cinder blocks bolstering its purpose. Blocks are more than bases. Boots from lost working days lie askew at the door. If only the small man’s feet would find those boots to fill…The hens would welcome cautious hands collecting eggs and scattering feed. But the man minds more than he should so the restive hens might go hungry today, if not for the hope of the girl. When she steps in, the hens sense her fear of their beaks and she backs away. The tang of old straw turns her stomach weed green, the scent as nauseating to her as the dog’s urine on soaked newspapers in the utility room inside the house. She knows she could housebreak the dog.

Claudia M. Stanek

Claudia M. Stanek’s work has been turned into a libretto, has been part of an art exhibition, and has been translated into Polish. Her poems have been published in her chapbook Language You Refuse to Learnas well as in Cutleaf, Ekstasis, Solum, Book of Matches, Atticus Review,and her forthcoming chapbook Beneath Occluded Shine (FLP 2025). She holds an MFA from Bennington College. Claudia lives in East Tennessee with her rescued dogs.



2024-Jun-01 19:05

I love the interesting mixture of calm and understated chaos of this piece, and how it tells a story of longing, trust, and trepidation, a complex blend of sensations that, although in a rural environment here, may be found in many places.

Trilety Wade
2024-Jun-02 00:38

Wow! What a piece - like walking through a memory. That last line is pure power.

2024-Jun-04 14:55

This feels accurate deep in the body.