Tuesday Jan 23

DeborahBrown-creditSuzyColt Deborah Brown's Walking the Dog's Shadow is the 2010 winner of the A. J. Poulin Jr. Award from BOA Editions. Brown is an editor, with Maxine Kumin and Annie Finch, of Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (U of Arkansas P, 2005). She is a translator, with Richard Jackson and Susan Thomas, of The Last Voyage: Selected Poems by Giovanni Pascoli (Red Hen Press, 2010). Her poems have appeared in Margie, Rattle, The Alaska Quarterly, Stand, The Mississippi Review and others. Brown teaches literature and writing at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, where she won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband George Brown and four cats.
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Empty Red


That Venus spins backwards is a surprise.
Why wasn't I told before? And the planet WASP17
travels in retrograde orbit—that's going east to west—
the opposite of its star. What with carrying wisps
of orchids and the lace gloves I wear in the garden,
I'm in a retrograde orbit myself, writing notes
in reverse the way Beethoven did in the final fugue
of the Hammerklavier. It's the way I've always moved
while most astronomical objects paid no mind.
What is worse than travel in reverse?
This year a plague assaulted the hemlock,
itself famously poisonous, and then
a pestilence developed that fed on the plague.
It's also true that parasitic flies transform fire ants
into zombies that wander. It's wandering that's
fearsome. It's cold as Mars, it's no orbit,
it's a nightmare that refuses to speak, a bright red,
not the color of a scarlet tanager, or even brick
or blood, it's an empty red that walks away,
silent, with no suggestion, no response.

 

Narratively Speaking


                          Just yesterday Dean Young said
I could tell you about the blue-fingered giant
who wears blossoms behind his ears and cleans
clothes better than Ivory Snow. And that was
before the woodpile squeaked its regrets. He
lets me tell stories and not believe in

                         narrative sense or the moon-deserted sky.
He lets me finish the plum juice, swing on my swing
and remember my last meal with Aunt Hannah—
moo shi and plum sauce, when she sneaked out
of the nursing home.

                         Narrro, narrere, drifts overhead
like a Coors balloon—the first Latin verb I learned from
Miss Barnes in eighth grade. Did a bloated sidekick of fear
ring the chimes? Narratively, it's time for a turn here,
towards the self if possible, time to reveal something
about the child I was, abandoned in my crib, and how
later both of my dogs died of cancer and my sister
said I ruined her life.

                          It may be time to tell the story
of the pot-bellied pig who went door to door collecting
old Watchtowers. Today the clouds hang
low as the brim of a cap on backwards. There's more that's
backward around here. I myself face south often. Dean agrees
life is not always as easy as buying an ankle bracelet.

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Photo by Suzy Colt