By Mary Barnard 1909–2001 Mary Barnard
Wheel of sorrow, centerless.
Voices, sad without cause,
slope upward, expiring on grave summits.   
Mournfulness of muddy playgrounds,   
raw smell of rubbers and wrapped lunches   
when little girls stand in a circle singing   
of windows and of lovers.

Hearing them, no one could tell
why they sing sadly, but there is in their voices   
the pathos of all handed-down garments   
hanging loosely on small bodies.

Mary Barnard, “Playroom” from Collected Poems (Portland: Breitenbush, 1979). Used by permission of the Estate of Mary Barnard.

Source: The Collected Poems of Mary Barnard (Breitenbush, 1979)

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Poet Mary Barnard 1909–2001

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Youth

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Mary  Barnard


Mary Barnard was born in Vancouver, Washington and attended Reed College where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1932. Her works include A Few Poems (1952), The Mythmakers (1966), Three Fables (1975) and Nantucket Genesis: The Tale of My Tribe (1988). She was awarded Poetry Magazine’s Levinson Award in 1935, the Elliston award for her book Collected Poems (1979), the Western States Book Award in 1986 for her book Time and . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Youth

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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