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


“Inclined Plane”

I’m a non-scientist—
I shoot this obliquely:

If you screw and screw with
still no body housed in

your overfolded frame,
you will be subject to

it’s not in God’s plan, it

wasn’t meant to be, you
wouldn’t be given more

than you could jinny down
that radical needle

of motion, kinetic
thrust of time, perhaps your

house twists with truncated
genes. Yet I felt my child

like a compass needle
in night navigation

slanting, right as polar
pull, some slip-way in my

tilt, his runabout nerves.
I semi-shelved him till

the doctor and his art,
that acceleration

of my milk and family,
somehow returned me to

subsistent skin. In a
word, he was weight, he was

strong, pitched, wedged in there, mine
and striking with small soles.

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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