Fleda Brown

Daily Poem

1

Trees are holding up the clouds. They waver

at the effort. No, it is my mind in its gray uniform,

with my bayonet, slashing away the gloom.

 

2

This land that was logged clean has entirely

sprouted again.  All these trees, these memories

of the ancestors I don’t have time to live up to.

 

3

How many times have I walked out on this dock?

Or the other ones, before, the ones I perfected

finally, in my imagination.

 

4

Why were you talking softly? The heron flew so close

I could see its neck stretched toward something.

I was all ears, but I missed the point.

 

5

In the absence of mist, there’s the absence

to deal with, a reflection on the water, which begins

to waver as the sun starts the shore breezes.

 

6

The duck takes off alongside. I see how hard

it pushes down on the air, legs trailing.

Who said there’s a nice, peaceful heaven?

 

7

In the kayak on a perfectly still evening,

I am thinking nothing could be more glorious.

That thought rattles the surface.

 

Aligned

In the place where my father lives

there is a three-legged dog named Tripod.

At supper he chooses only my father,

continually nuzzles his hand to be taken

for a walk. My father’s tired and it’s cold

but he’s afraid Tripod’s bladder will burst

since no one else seems to care.

When he let Tripod swim in the pond,

he was told to keep him on the leash,

which made my father chew his tongue

but he obeyed. They are mutually aligned,

having nothing else to do with their time.

Which may seem sad if you think

with a mind that imagines rabbits and sailing

and kites and never thinks to be

limping and slumping. But limping

and slumping look like exactly the right

thing at Capetown Assisted Living. In fact,

otherwise feels like a foreign object

to be rolled on the tongue and spit out.

The piercing of winter with hope

is dreadful unless the balance can altogether

shift. After Tripod pees, my father

goes back to his cottage with his bed and chairs

and microwave and his infernal

ancient typewriter upon which he pounds out

single-spaced letters to the President,

what to do about taxes and gross national

product, neither sad nor hurried.

Who can begin again? Who can say “pathos”

without loving the way it fits the mouth?

 

Love Letter, with Martin Luther

 

I love you more than Martin Luther.

But Martin’s bust is here and you’re far away.

It’s behind a construction fence,

only the top of his professorial hat visible,

but if I stretch upward there are his lips:

thin, bronze, set against the church’s evil ways,

whereas I imagine you now set against

a pillow, rolling toward my side of the bed.

No fasting, prayer, or pilgrimages for you.

He’d win in erudition. He translated the Bible

out of Latin. Nevertheless, I love you more

because on Christmas when for a change

we go to church, you can hardly sit still

for the dull, dead language of what Luther

would’ve called the “common man.” You know

what poetry is for, how we’re lost without mystery.

I have to pat your knee and hush you up.

“And the days were accomplished that she

should be delivered,” you correct. “Swaddling

clothes,” you mutter. “Sore afraid!” You’d say it

in Latin if you could. I miss you, but I’ve got

poor Martin, half-hidden behind the fence

keeping watch while the chapel behind him

is remodeled, I guess. No one can get in.

I salute Martin’s head. How brave he was.

But who knew how far all that would go, until

the words mean only what they mean?

 

Fleda Brown has a new collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy, forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2013. Her most recent book, a memoir, is Driving With Dvořák (2010, University of Nebraska Press). The author of six previous collections of poems, she has won the Felix Pollak Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Philip Levine Prize, and her work has twice been a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She is professor emerita at the University of Delaware, where she taught for 27 years. She now lives in Traverse City, Michigan, and is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington. bio-fleda