“Mortal Enemy,” “Men Think They’re Jesus,” and “Baseball”: poems of rivalry within and between the sexes, by Barbara Daniels.

“The degree of failure is perfect …”
Gunver Hasselbalch. Watercolor, 2016.

Mortal Enemy


I like that color, she told me,

but not on you, jeering

at my pink sweater. One day

my lacy blue half-slip slid

to the floor right by the mailboxes.

She and a man she knew

laughed. She wrote our bosses

furious letters about me.

She hadn’t been loved

enough. But which of us has?

I stood in the shower inventing

replies to her. If I’d learned

not to hate her, I would’ve felt

cleaner. I saw how ugly

the heart is, my heart, that raw

little animal. I sent her an email

all about chemo, a trip

to an underworld she might

come back from. She took

her time to blame me and die.


Men Think They’re Jesus


Women think about washing their hair,

rubbing their thighs with sweet-scented oil.

Men think they’re Babe Ruth, fat, yes,

but great and swaggering. Women slump

their broad bellies, glad to be warmed

by a golden day. They’ve had their babies,

their wild boys; been maidens, been

hoydens. Hot handed, wide bodied, men sit

on webbed lounge chairs and dream

about walking on top of salt seas.

They rise up to kiss Marilyn, Mary, placid

as sunflowers tipped toward the sun.




The old cosmopolites complain about

the new cosmopolites. They have better

food — kitfo and wat, barbacoa,

mixiotes — and they look like poets. The old

cosmopolites learned some Yiddish

back when Brooklyn belonged to them —

Coney Island, summer, the Dodgers,

the best place for bagels. We’re the true

immigrants, they say to each other.

They find baseball flawless — the kinds

of pitches, the number of outs.

At the ballpark the wind has a separate

habitation out past a screen of trees.

The degree of failure is perfect. The clock

runs forever. Few people score.

Beyond the gates the new cosmopolites

headbutt soccer balls. The old cosmopolites

turn toward their shouting, yawn in the sun.


Barbara Daniels is the author of Rose Fever: Poems (WordTech Press) and the chapbooks Moon Kitchen, Black Sails, and Quinn & Marie (Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press). She has received three Individual Artist Fellowships for her poetry from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, WomenArts Quarterly Journal, The Literary Review, and many other journals.