The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Simple Machines” by Barbara Duffey


“How Simple Machines Work”

            1. You will never get more energy out of a system than you put into it.
            2. You will never get as much energy out of a system as you put into it.

                        —Utah State University Junior Engineering Workshop

Rain on a neighbor’s shutters, the sound of
learning someone else is pregnant.  About

the air, it hung loose as a pinafore,
a thumbed pocket with a grain inside.  When

the moon was white as my pall and dog-chained
to dry land, it seemed easier to pitch

my tent alone than bind my body to
you, spoiler pitman, and your paper ribs,

your steam-engine muscle, your Rube Goldberg
romance.  But when I maroon my mule self

you always winch me back, even though you
lose heat to friction every time the rope
rubs against the spool as it’s wound and wound.

This selection comes from Barbara Duffey’s poetry collection Simple Machines, available now from The Word Works. Purchase your copy here.

Barbara Duffey is a 2015 NEA Literature Fellow in poetry and the author of the full-length poetry collections Simple Machines (The Word Works, 2016), which won the 2015 Washington Prize, and I Might Be Mistaken (Word Poetry, 2015). She has also published the chapbooks The Circus of Forgetting (dancing girl press, 2013) and The Verge of Thirst (South Dakota State Poetry Society, 2013). Her poems have appeared in such publications as Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, Western Humanities Review, and Best New Poets 2009, and her prose in CutBank and The Collagist. She holds a PhD from the University of Utah, an MFA from the University of Houston, and a BA summa cum laude from the University of Southern California. She is an assistant professor of English at Dakota Wesleyan University and lives in Mitchell, SD, with her husband and son. You can find her online at and on Twitter @BarbaraNDuffey.

Staci R. Schoenfeld is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota, assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review, and an assistant editor at Sundress Publications. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Mid-American Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Room Magazine, fiction in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and non-fiction in The Manifest Station.


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