Jacob’s Ladder / Rachel Barton


Jacob’s Ladder

poems by

Rachel Barton

~80 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: July/August, 2024

An Advance Sale Discount price of $8.50 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $12.50/book (which includes shipping & sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Mint Hill, NC 28227. 


PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date entitles the buyer to a discount. It does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above and the price only applies to copies ordered through the Main Street Rag Online Bookstore.

Rachel Barton is a poet, writing coach, and founding editor of Willawaw Journal. She also serves as an associate editor for Cloudbank Books. Her collection, This is the Lightness, was published by The Poetry Box in 2022. Her chapbook, Happiness Comes, was published by dancing girl press in 2018. Barton’s recent publications include SALT, SLEET, Cirque, and the Oregon English Journal. She is at home in the Pacific Northwest, but also has roots in Alaska, West Virginia, and Indiana. For more information about the author, go to

The poems in Jacob’s Ladder are not so much steps to Heaven as they are portals going deeper into the daily. “What am I supposed to see today?” they ask, which at turns will require hanging out with the dead, dreaming of houses ablaze, or, more frequently, re-considering chores, garden, relationships—while not forgetting clouds, moss, rain. The poems aim to live closer to one’s life. They are ready to walk through every next door. ~Richard Robbins, author of The Oratory of All Souls



Jacob’s Ladder


From the Dahlia Diaries: Big Red comes late to the party, most of his competition already spent, only the seediest folk still standing. He doesn’t mind. The garden’s autumnal dreariness lets his star power shine. The “dancing ladies” fuchsia nod their approval.

Altered States: I lose my swagger in a migraine storm that chases me through the entire weekend, my mind a blur, short-term memory shot. I fold laundry, play cards badly, dream that my son is high up, running upside-down, his feet gracing the powerlines.

Somewhere in Santa Fe: The boy wears his lover’s cheetah faux fur to the patio so he can smoke a spliff, decompress from the day. He yawns a prayer as he preps his remedy, his mouth a deep cavern on the phone’s screen. Behind him, aspen and twilight.

Phone call from Snake Hill: My widowed sister says to me: “If you can’t take away the old mattress when you bring in the new, what’s the point?” She finds a delivery man who agrees, then sends the grey of her grief out the door.

All roads lead to home: Each time I return to my sky-blue door, I feel happy. As I put my key in the lock, I am enveloped in blue, the kind of blue that goes on forever. I enter quietly, but I’m singing on the inside.



When You Wear a Red Sweater

~after Vern Rutsala, Doug Stone, and Annette Basalyga


your stories rise and rise like sky lanterns
float into clouds cross distant horizons

within the sturdy sadness of your life
a constancy though all day you’ll suffer

like a bat in the cellar tangled in a pull cord
hooded lamp swaying from fermentation crock

to the wall of mason jars lining shelves like jewels–
a promise of sweet a promise of sour

come winter a readiness
to carry the universe on your back

remember breaking into a run for no reason?
—sadness twin to elation—

see the wishing light in the high branches
your words stripped bare of artifice



Stand Back, Stand By


I often think about the back of clocks
that wind down, the whole machine stalled
in deep grass, cattle lowing on the moor.

One or two things can tilt the tables. We scrabble
to lie about the weather and the runnels of rain,
sheets-into-rivers sheering a new path down Main.

Corpses in their windings stream the causeway
of my brain. I don’t see their faces, just the numbers
rising at the bottom of the screen, a steady ticking.

Flames lick to black another thousand acres.
No way to wind the clocks back more than an hour.
Then it’s time we face; the music is a tiny dancer.



Helter Skelter

~after Paul McCartney


The roses rise to seven feet,
tall enough to gossip over the fence,
their pink heads bobbing in a breeze.
They jostle in a clamorous clique,
giddy in their long-stemmed glamour.

I release the lithesome beauties with a snip,
gather an armful to take inside
where they continue to giggle—
they can’t help themselves—
they laugh their heads off,
spewing petals across the table.

Later, in the quiet of evening,
when I might surrender to the couch’s invitation,
the bouquet’s riot of color challenges me,
provokes me with its arresting beauty—
I’ve got to get up and make some noise.

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