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Spring/Summer 2008, Volume 24.3

Poetry

Ken BrewerPhoto of Ken Brewer.


Kenneth W. Brewer was Utah’s poet laureate until his untimely death in March of 2006. A Professor Emeritus of English at Utah State University, he published numerous books of poetry to wide critical acclaim and gave countless readings nationwide in an effort to celebrate the craft of poetry. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Brewer received his Ph.D. in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Utah and also held a Masters degree from New Mexico State University and a BA from Western New Mexico University. Shortly before his death, Ken collaborated with a team of artists across disciplines on the Lake Bonneville Project at Weber State University, for which he also wrote the poems featured in this issue of
Weber. His final collections of poems include Why Dogs Stopped Flying (Utah State University Press 2006), Small Scenes, 20 Woodcuts and 20 short poems (Limberlost Press 2006, in collaboration with artist Royden Card), and Whale Song: A Poet’s Journey Into Cancer (Dream Garden Press 2007). Read an interview with Ken Brewer previously published in Weber.

 

Water Song

You become water as I love you.
Surfaces disappear. Edges turn liquid
till bodies have no words, no voices,
no faces, no teeth, tongues, throats,
no arms, no legs, no eyes, no breath.

You become water as I love you
and bone-white stones burn
deep within our drummed hearts.
You become water as I become
the song that can never hold you.

You become water as I love you
before steeples and smokestacks, before
temples, roads, refineries,
before muddy trails through Gambel oak,
before bombs that turn skin to shadow and ash.

You become water as I love you
and we rock like waves as moon
pushes, pulls, and sun heats,
wind sings, red rocks hold us,
hold us, hold us till we burst.

 

Song of the Many Beings
         —
For Brad

Fox song, Snake song, Bee song, Bison.
Hawk song, Finch song, Bear song, Bobcat.
Snail song, Moose song, Quail song, Coyote.

Peace upon the many beings.

Crab song, Wren song, Elk song, Ermine.
Deer song, Teal song, Bass song, Badger.
Horse song, Dove song, Trout song, Turtle.

Peace upon the many beings.

Frog song, Crow song, Bat song, Beaver.
Seal song, Cow song, Skunk song, Squirrel.
Sheep song, Mink song, Rat song, Rabbit.

Peace upon the many beings.

Whale song, Moth song, Loon song, Lizard.
Crane song, Wolf song, Owl song, Otter.
Kelp song, Toad song, Perch song, People.

Peace upon the many beings.

 

Earth Song

What matters about a vessel,
a cup, a clay pot, a shoreline?
The elegance of form, the beauty?
What value is a shape
but for what it holds?

The Earth carries us.

We populate the empty space
within the vessel wherever it sails.
We fill the emptied Lake Bonneville
like shopping fish swimming the canyons
of slip-shod malls, trout people.

The Earth carries us.

Fox, coyote, mountain lion, bear
fill the mountains and valleys,
as if rocks and trees were condos
built for the animals, deer trail freeways
zigzag the slopes, goat people.

The Earth carries us.

The desert, the salt flats spread
to the horizon like fluffy carpet
where a small stone shades a lizard,
clouds and crevices fill with ravens,
and everything hugs the ground, snake people.

The Earth carries us.

The sky holds us flying,
broad-tailed hummingbird, eagle,
chickadee, pine siskin, redtail.
We live in the air till we come down
always certain of solid land, bird people.

The Earth carries us.

Each of us lives in a shell
in the planet’s keep, the deep
peace of being held gently
till we leave these bodies—
animal people, earth people, spirit people.

The Earth still carries us.

 

City Song

Ogden under the lake, imagine you breathe not air but water.
Imagine each wet breath steamed by sun and glacier.
Imagine your skin slick yet spongy, porous yet dry
till your body dances between vapor and bone.
Imagine your streets channels cut through lakebed bottom mud where
gastropods stop and start and slide, their eyes aglow.
Imagine the moon through constant waves that shimmer its circled edges
like an enormous eye always weeping, always falling apart, always coming back.
Imagine the cold world beyond your shores, where nothing can float, where
juniper pine sink their roots, where mountain sheep graze.

City under the lake, your streets become rivers—Wall, Washington, Harrison,
25th, Kiesel Avenue, Eccles Avenue, Riverdale Road—
And your people flow through—horizontal pneumatic tubes, vertical Otis elevators—
to find Rainbow Gardens, Egyptian Theater, Roosters and Utah Noodle;
And your people swim to Union Station, stock yards, grain mills, Amalgamated Sugar,
F-16s, White City Ballroom, art deco high school, tires and tunnels;
And your people float between Weber State and Newgate,
Berthana and Buenaventura, Marian Anderson and Frank Robinson;
And your people glisten many-colored, a chorus burbling to the surface;
And your people glide in and out, under and above the arch of "Ogden."

City under the lake, think how slow you would move through the hours.
Think how much time you would have to consider each decision, each action.
Think how commerce would change under a thousand feet of water.
Think what you would pay for a pool of dry, a river of cornflakes, a sea of bacon,
a fast-food swim-through, a rack of lamb, a loaf of bread, a chocolate wafer.
Think what you would do each evening in your lake-floor houses, your all-night diners,
your float-in theaters, your supermarkets full of bait, your aquarium motels.
Think how goodness and mercy might fill the lake from bottom to top.

 

Night Song

Whatever cries in the night,
whatever darts, crawls, dives
names the dark and moves closer
to brightness, kindled or candled,
or triggered by human fingers into light.

Boatmen drag the marsh,
lanterns and flashlights prow and stern.
Shadows float like wings on water;
oarlocks grind wood on metal;
small outboards sputter.

The Black-crowned Night Heron quoks,
glares red-eyed from the reeds
as suddenly-quiet boats drift.
Searchers, ripe with awful expectation,
lean into darkness and listen.

 

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