Three Poems by Mildred Kiconco Barya 

These Moments


the gentle hum of traffic 

and my old fridge thrumming 

with its own chords. 

Soothing and compelling me 

to abandon duty for turtle 

doodles that litter my table. 

Hearing expands to receive 

messages from my ancestors 

several generations back, 

and new locomotives all the way 

from the future—rumbling 

steel with eyes of the tiger 

glowing with perception. 

I taste the purity of air 

coming in from the mouths 

of seals and salmons before 

plastics entered the ocean. 

All at once, I am a child 

on the shore. I am the child 

tending calves in the green 

fields of my country, strong 

winds rousing the trees 

and the waves, attending 

to me like an urgent lover—

Whoosh! Whoosh. Whoosh.

In these moments stretching 

into infinity, I am an infant 

yet full of years. Shedding hair, 

teeth, and knowing full well 

that when my time arrives, 

I’ll take nothing. At cremation, 

the body splinters into sparkling 

fragments carried skywards, 

iterative cells knowing which 

way to go home—to a multitude. 



Three male turkeys 

have claimed 

our holy space 

in the woods—

the drum circle. 

I approach cautiously, 

each inhale purified 

by the scent of pines

and fragrant blossoms 

of black locust, 

with a hint of honey 

on the nose. 

The first time 

I came here, 

I sat on the big, 

rugged rock. 

At call and response, 

tired hands and feet 

felt the surge 

and began 

stomping until 

the heart could 

not separate 

from the drumbeats.

At solstice, we speak 

no other language 

all night long. 

Isn’t it possible 

that we’ve found 

at last what the sages 

meant when they said 

we shall transcend 

in the communion 

of our souls— 

as we linger 

in unison?


Old Bartimaeus, I Feel You

In my version, when his 

eyes opened and he saw 

for the first time the hands 

that had guided his movements,

he cried in astonishment,

I see! Dear Lord, I see!

Like me not knowing

who I was until the day 

I touched myself 

in the family photograph, 

and screamed with the joy

of recognition all over my face.

The spark of vision

too marvelous, belief 

comingling with disbelief

like a pupa finding light,

discarding its filmy 

coat for the first time.

Mildred Kiconco Barya is a North Carolina-based writer and poet of East African descent. She teaches and lectures globally, and is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently The Animals of My Earth School (Terrapin Books, 2023). Her prose, hybrids, and poems have appeared in New England Review, Shenandoah, Joyland, The Cincinnati Review, Tin House, Forge, and elsewhere. She’s now working on a collection of creative nonfiction, and her essay “Being Here in This Body” won the 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award and was published in the North Carolina Literary Review. She serves on the boards of African Writers Trust and Story Parlor and coordinates the Poetrio Reading events at Malaprop’s Independent Bookstore/Café.