Michael Barrett


Self is too small
to hold self    it takes

a city    thousands of screens
hundreds of iconoclasts

I crave solitude because
I am the crowd.

Pan poly theist hetero
genus   I want to be

alone in the impossible
self. I can't stand him

because he stands in me.
In astrophysical units

the social, oddly enough,
is the self.



press hands
across a cell

pull close

fist against


push the sun    stretch
the body across
a winding sheet



I know I am small.

I know I eat a dirt sandwich
and a salad of plants
will shoot through my bones

I also know
it took all natural laws to make me.


Michael Barrett

My contemplative practice is in dialectic with an intense engagement in the world as a father, teacher, coach, and poet. I derive the energy and patience I need from hiking across Missouri terrain, gaining altitude in the Rockies, and sitting still on my back deck. In both doing and not-doing I attend to spacetime—the present—what Martin Heidegger calls Dasein.

As a member of the Chicago Poetry Ensemble, Mike Barrett helped establish the Poetry Slam before moving on to more esoteric pursuits. These poems are meditations on the self culled from his two-volume manuscript, Recto Verso, which was written ambidextrously in the white spaces of Carl Jung's Liber Novus.


More on Michael Barrett's work can be found on our Links page.


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