shauna barbosa


self on the first date


You need the sun if you want to stop
fast action. The sun wins every single time.
The way it stands above you like everything
is going as planned as thought how it shines
on pregnant women on broken bikes
and bones on unplanned pregnancies. I’m
sweating underneath the same purple pleated skirt
I got hit by a car in or collided with a car in
or the sun opened its mouth blew me
to the ground in. It looks different tonight.
Some kind of photo grid meant to be read
from right to left.


And I keep telling the story of being hit by a car
because I don’t know the name for not remembering
if the driver had his blinker on. I couldn’t stop
then I fell on the left side. In the street
like that one so close to where I work
a pregnant woman stops to ask if I’m okay.
The shape of her stomach from the concrete
view. A coffee mug.


This is what comes to me in a dream: a huge belly
by an old dentist husband who is expecting
with his new lover. Going alone to appointments
walking around the office without a ring on.


Would the accident have meant more if it were fatal?
There has to be a poem in looking this good
then dying on a bike. No helmet but a purple
pleated skirt. Sometimes at the light, my thick
thighs wear my shorts and men beep.


Photography is not about moments.
The rule of thirds makes a perfect sunset.
The worst time to take a photo is in the
middle of the day. I don’t carry mace.


The first thing you touch at the bar is my hair.
You unearth what you name volume. You
are named after a saint who carried a sword.


The second thing you touch is my lips.


I want to take a photo of you. All directives come
together. Fill the frame let the subject dominate
the image. Get as close as you possibly can.


The third thing you touch is a complex area
named by Natacha in high school. Chichos.


You reference conflicts in the Middle East.
There’s no time for spot metering. Your eyes
are moving too fast, you’re casting all the light
even when you describe me as full of hope labeling
everything as up and coming as on the rise
as getting there. I’m ignorant to international
conflict. I started in the womb with my own.
Mostly unaware but I know trauma. Bullet wounds
in Beirut. Bullet wounds in Boston. Your sword
is in the way you stare with openness.
Men don’t share where I’m from.


I feel your knuckles as if I know how a surgeon’s
knuckles should knead. I think they’re soft and
you show me every spot where they are not. I want
to lick the redness until I see a boy on the train ride home
staring  out the window. His father wants to know
if there’s anything good out there. Horrible
he whispers, but he doesn’t turn his curly head.



Shauna Barbosa is the author of the poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tupelo Quarterly, The Southeast Review, Boulevard, Lit Hub, Lenny Letter, Awl, Colorado Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Foundry, Wildness, The Atlas Review, PANK, and others. She is a 2018 Disquiet International Luso-American fellow. Shauna received her MFA from Bennington College in Vermont and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.