Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

[Two Poems]

by Judith Barkley

1976—First Christmas with Jean Lucille

Just yesterday, Lucille sliced oysters, popping pieces into her mouth,
worked crosswords in ink, played Solitaire, and wrapped a dog bone
in red tissue for Muff, the schnauzer she brought to the marriage.

Today she sits on our father’s sofa, hands massaging her head,
her red flannel robe clashing with knitted bedsocks
a flurry of pink and orange at her feet, dark circles at her eyes.

The year before, my sister and I heard her shrill laughter,
perhaps a girlish, shy thrill that our widowed father wanted her—
plain, stocky, big boned—an Iowa farm girl—her square face

so unlike our mother’s, whose features were fine and delicate,
figure petite, eyes soft and gray. Now, our stepmother
rubs her head, fingers her thick black hair.

Spirited laughter subdued, her eyes fill with tears.
Our father walks softly through the house yet does not hold her.
He thinks she knows how adored she is.

I see she is not sure about his love, like most of us,
must be told, and retold until it takes hold:
We are loved. We are beautiful.



Weeks before your visit
I’d rehearsed
the Cordon Bleu
and gourmet conversation
had the new sofa delivered
lotioned my body to satin
fussed over my limp hair
and decided finally
to wear the Von Furstenberg copy
to meet your flight.

Two days later
yearning for someone else
you left,
my 8x10 of you
slipped from its golden frame
and rolled into your jacket pocket.

The days flung wide—
an awful freedom
to surrender the memory
of your buoyant arrival
when you strode through the airport
in your flawless linen suit
and dazzled me
with your broad, boyish grin.



SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

Judith Barkley

Photo of Judith Barkley

Born and reared in Iowa, Judith Barkley earned a Master’s Degree in English at Texas Christian University and another in counseling at San Diego State University. She taught English and literature courses for 35 years at Grossmont Community College in El Cajon, California.

Known by her many friends and colleagues as an exceptional poet who chronicled the fragility of life and the power of living boldly, Judith was also a passionate rescuer of adult hard-to-place cats, a nature lover, and a dinner party host extraordinaire. Her goal of presenting a chapbook of her poetry to friends and family was never accomplished. After a lengthy illness, Judith died on July 7, 2013, leaving the creation of her chapbook to her fellow writers. Three of her poems appear in the 2012 edition of the San Diego Writers Ink Anthology.

—Margaret Harmon and Dorothy Ledbetter wrote this biography of their dear friend
Judy Barkley.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury