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Spring/Summer 1996, Volume 13.2

Poetry

 

Sean Brendan-Brown


Sean Brendan-Brown (M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop) teaches English at the University of Southern Mississipi. His work has appeared in
Weber Studies, The Windsor Review, and others.  See more of Sean Brendan-Brown's work published in Weber Studies: Vol. 11.1.

 

Caxton's Aesop

The time was for temporary potentates:
foxes as foreign ministers,
wise asses promulgating murder:
a monkey with a fist in the peanut jar,
happily stuck and singing
            If we are miserable
            we shall not rest assured,
            until the ancient madrigal
            of God inflames the world!

Those Gnostic utterances of donkey, fox, lion,
monkey, ox, dog, and hunter re-told the universe
of stellar corruption, the patina of eons:
man's breath, acid, ferment and smoke of industry.

The time was for Gods: calm temples
terraced from hillsides, the muted echo
of Aeolian lyres mesmerizing ravens
as boys crept to snare them in lime:
boys quiet, barefoot, descending white marble
steps half-smothered with blue porcelain
jars of roses and lotus; quietly
and then the old slave had them, cackling joy
as they squawked, flapping like snared ravens—
dragged back to lessons:

                           the collier and fuller
separating the dirty from the clean;
sober grasshopper begging crusts
on the cold stone steps of Knossos;
the daws, peacocks, and cranes of Thera
risen through towering gray explosions of steam
the scattered trash of civilization's
three thousand years settling across the foothills
of Crete—
rules,
immutable as light,
that men and mendicants die.

 

Custody

She crossed Snoqualmie Pass
like an intent Fremont
with her brooding father,
the silver pickup
heavy with their cigarette smoke
and small talk.
She knocked, waited for an opening.
Our son clung to each leg, spilt our coffee,
worked the grandfather's lighter,
took them to his temporary room
to show off the new treasures:
the varnished hornet's cone,
the tea-tins of bone-colored river skippers,
shells and Paleozoic corals.
                  I heard my neighbor call her children
                  from the sea: her voice is music, strikes
                  my brain with blue-gree stucco, gray-
                  green olive granches. I opened my window
                  and waved to her where she thrust her body
                  out calling through blue-jay infested creepers
                  spiraling down to sunlit heliotrope.
My ex-wife gathered our son and he did not cry.
She wiped his nose,
zipped his pockets of bric-a-brac and soggy candy,
said
                  Thanks for taking care of him
as if I were a cousin, uncle,
neighbor doing favors. I touched her—hand to shoulder
while grandfather squinted through smoke at his daughter—
this Catholic woman whose divorce
is not an event but an incorrigible shape
written, spoken into final form:
                  the first peace is the worse peace;
                  let there be no silence until you have won…

I promise my son—soon. Then they are gone,
returned to the bleak side,
the desert side, into the snow of the Pass:
fresh snow, formless white
falling through a hooded sun too dimmed
from my side of the mountain to light the face of my son.

 

Something About Old Horses Even Horses Know—Talismans

I flattened twelve dimes on the Monashee
Line, stitched them into Jesus' bridle
Because there were twelve apostles;
I believed numbers then could set
Right even a crippled horse.
Not only magic—I pounded shoes light,
Drilled calks where heel over-reached
Bulb but Jesus got worse so I tried jumping-clips.
The time finally came;
       Wasn't something for words.
       Nods and eyes. I gave
       Jesus soft, sweet apples
       Then my father walked him down to the river.

 

Past Things

I don't know what my grandfather looks like
except my grandmother once said
"you—you have his eyes." After grandfather's
           ship was sunk
grandmother stacked daguerreotypes
into the greasy fireplace, picture after picture:
mustachioed men posing
           with lace-collared women,
boy-soldiers tilting awkward muskets,
gowned and knickerbockered children.

 

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