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By David Barber

What if   it were possible to vanquish

All this shame with a wash of   varnish

Instead of wishing the stain would vanish?


What if   you gave it a glossy finish?

What if   there were a way to burnish

All this foolishness, all the anguish?


What if   you gave yourself   leave to ravish

All these ravages with famished relish?

What if   this were your way to flourish?


What if   the self   you love to punish —

Knavish, peevish, wolfish, sheepish —

Were all slicked up in something lavish?


Why so squeamish? Why make a fetish

Out of everything you must relinquish?

Why not embellish what you can’t abolish?


What would be left if   you couldn’t brandish

All the slavishness you’ve failed to banish?

What would you be without this gibberish?


What if   the true worth of the varnish

Were to replenish your resolve to vanquish

Every vain wish before you vanish?


Source: Poetry (March 2013)

Poet Bio

David Barber is poetry editor of The Atlantic, where he has been a staff editor since 1994. Barber has taught writing and literature at Middlebury College, the Harvard Writing Program, MIT’s Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and the Emerson College graduate writing program. He also writes on natural history, music, and art.
 
 

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