Monday Mar 27

BrowneLaynie Laynie Browne is the author of nine collections of poetry and one novel. Her most recent publications include: Roseate, Points of Gold (Dusie, 2011), The Desires of Letters, The Scented Fox, and Daily Sonnets. Her honors include: the National Poetry Series Award, the Contemporary Poetry Series Award, and two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Poetry.  Currently she edits for Trickhouse and is co-editing the anthology with Caroline Bergvall, Teresa Carmody and Vanessa Place, I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues, forthcoming, 2011).  She has taught creative writing at The University of Washington- Bothell, at Mills College in Oakland, at Naropa University, and at the University of Arizona, where she teaches creative writing and coordinates an interdisciplinary writers-in-the-schools program.


When I kept silent, my bones wasted away

you envelop me


After death animus hovered around the body
An owl climbed outside one’s  form
Quintessence— in a great treasure-house, or cage, a columbarium
May only move through human frames
In the fourth heaven— a lake of birds— continually praise
Saints affirm  ardor in the shape of doves
Causal birds in the Acherusian lake were consulted
As  advisors  upon  creation of humanity


You have supported me and you set me before you

Sparrow and  swallow rise upon the walls
Sing whereupon they are ushered
Into hidden passage— or nest
Adorned with crowns
They prepare a sanctuary of the future


Deep calls to deep
to the commotion of your canals
all your billows and your waves
have  gone over me

No act was undertaken

without advice of

augury, prophesying

by flight of birds
Open a window

Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans

that the soul may

augur = avi-gur, οἰωνὸς, οἰωνισταί
sing, whisper

"for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings           shall tell the matter."
wing away

You have been my stronghold
and a refuge in the day of my distress

Divination by means of weasels, fowls, and stars,

Who is an enchanter?

He, for instance, who says:

My bread fell out of my mouth

My staff out of my hand


Divine by behavior of the fish

Snake and cloud omens

An owl alighted on the tree against

Which you now lean


Who speaks the language of  flight?

Do not advise, even in whisper

birds carry a voice onward


note:  Numbers for poems and text at the beginning of each poem in italics are taken from psalms (various translations).  These particular psalms, often identified as Nachman’s healing psalms” were chosen by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810, Ukraine) and are traditionally read during mourning.  This practice exemplifies Nachmans’ use of sacred texts as meditative tools, and highlights his religious philosophy which revolves around intimacy and direct conversation with divine.