Like light from the stars, all’s been decided,
nothing to do now but watch.
The time between stars is vast,
but the sky shows them all at once,
an impression, the spirit of the thing,
like a field of frail hair-stubs on the plain
urn of the head. An impression
of an ancient vessel with its slight fault-lines.
I peeled a golf ball, in the days
when it was rubber-bands all the way,
not gel in the center, down to
a marble-size ball near the end made of
only itself, fiercely spirited.
My golf-ball head, my memento mori.
Stay, I say to my head, looking back at me
in silence. Stay, I say to my love,
who runs his hand across his memories.
Always, he says, even though I am inside-out,
pink and surprising, burning
with the residue of past civilizations.
It is raining here. If we flew to Vegas
it might not be raining, but everything
would be so different, rain would be
the least of it. Water is dripping off
the roof right in front of our eyes,
repeating, as if we were idiots, “See,
it’s raining.” If it’s not raining where you
are, you can imagine our rain, individual
drops coming so fast they merge into
a pale roaring through the downspout.
While you’re at it, you might imagine
sheep in the field, wet but not soaking,
because of oil in the wool. Happy enough.
And lots of scattered rocks, because we’re
in Grasmere, in a B & B called “Raise View,”
with blue hills through the rain. We
don’t care if it’s raining because we’re in
Grasmere, and that’s part of the ambiance.
How nice that we’ve gone there, if only
for the moment: that morning with
the delicate teacups and scones, and rain.
I was just thinking about the paradox of the word chemotherapy–that it’s healing/curing: therapy, a word whose root has very much to do with care also–ministering; in the Iliad and Odyssey even a squire could be called a therapon–
the one who administered to the hero, putting on and taking off his armor, etc…
And chemo is chemistry, potentially substances that aren’t normally
encountered in the body…But you know what? I thought a little further in my
nerdy little etymological brain, and I believe the “chem” part, taken from
alchemy, is originally the Egyptian [khem], which is the precious fertile earth
from the Nile flood, the black gold from which alchemists tried to derive the
So, that may be something. “Ministering to the body with precious black-gold
…………………………………..–my student Ela
The molecule that oddly binds to a cell’s
hollow tubes, that holds them in paralysis, that stops
…………..their wild replication.
That requires all the bark from one rare yew
in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest to save
…………..one person. Also the home
of the rare northern spotted owl.
Now you’re up against the press of need, of cost.
………….The bloody essence, the drug-war
of it. Everyone’s stake. Don’t sleep under the yew
if you don’t want bad dreams. In ancient English graveyards,
………….where the yew’s planted
over graves, rats die. Let the roots
talk to the dead, as the Druids did. There was the woman
…………..who only touched
the hem of Jesus’s robe and was cured.
Likewise, it turns out that simple needle-cells grown
……………in fermentation tanks,
a brew, an essence, is enough. But will this
life be saved? Won’t it? I ask this with reverent earnestness,
………….as the complicated foreignness
enters my small vein, chilly as a stream
through underbrush: Taxol, making a pressure, an ache
…………..farther down my arm,
where the nurse places a warm pack
to loosen the valves, the barriers, to keep death’s molecules
………….going where they’re meant,
into the deep forest of the body,
mine, mine, only one of me in existence. Who touched me?
…………..Jesus asked, so subtle the solution.
………….When, for example, you’re running
the lint roller all over your black dress
before the party, up and down to the hem,
you may notice the grace in this preparation,
its turning and gathering,
the tiny flecks that look black against
the white but looked white against the black,
and that strangeness may make you smile,
a small thing, but it’s as if the sky cracked
open a bit, the sky that all your life
keeps trying to draw close,
Angels can come from anywhere,
a host from inscrutably high tearing straight down
toward your ice cream, your partially
melted scoops, one Dutch chocolate, one salted
caramel, before they turn and climb, leaving
the sky split open in their wake.
Angels can also nose-up and slide
as if they had no care in the world down
before they slowly right themselves, a sign
to you that righting is the proper
thing, really—the mundane engines, right to left,
left to right—the other an aberration.
Still, the one you cheer for. The steep climb,
the riotous splitting away
into a sky-flower of vapor trail.
A fawn the size of a cat with long legs was left
in the tall grass in her yard. Mothers do that
until the fawns can keep up—they come back
and get them in early evening. M— knew it was there
because it stood up once. So sweet!
She waited all evening for the mother to come,
the reunion, the way they nuzzle and the baby nurses.
Around 9:30 a doe came and left. Then two more
came and sniffed. The fawn has no smell.
Usually it stands and they spot each other.
It got dark and then cold, cold rain,
even lightning. M— was in agony, truly.
She lived so far out of town, each event was hers,
only. How was the fawn to survive
without the mother’s warmth?
She felt she was in charge of life,
……………………..no, it was the weight
of watching, the inability to look away.
It was her country that had abandoned its delicate
balance, the armored tanks, the night-vision
goggles. Nothing but window-glass between her
and foreclosing darkness. Should she try
to warm the fawn in her studio?
What if the mother came? All night she lay,
worrying. She almost got up several times, as if
stirring and pacing would solve this.
At 6:30 a.m. she went out. The fawn was gone.
Mother? Coyotes? Then she saw
the mother’s hoof-prints with the tiniest hoof-
prints beside. For a moment she felt
shallow-rooted, with nothing, nothing in sight,
to show her how to withstand
such violent alternations, such grace.
— Fleda Brown
Fleda Brown’s eighth collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy, (BOA Editions, LTD) and her collection of essays, Growing Old in Poetry, with Sydney Lea (Autumn House Press) came out in 2013. Her memoir is Driving With Dvorak, (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). Professor emerita at the University of Delaware, past poet laureate of Delaware, she lives in Traverse City, Michigan, and is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.
As usual, the poems aren’t just perfectly turned and exquisitely sensitive. Each one reveals your steel-trap intelligence. My reading begins in envy and ends in gratitude. Love you,
Bless your heart, m’ pal. It means the world that you like them.
These poems are gorgeous. Important There’s so much stuff out there, but these poems stopped me in my tracks. Brava!
Gosh, thanks, Leslie. It’s so good to hear that you like these.
These are poems to leave a reader breathless. I have no words.
You just did have words. I am grateful. Thanks.
Fleda, I am awed by how you weave science, image, and words into work that flashes such complex emotions. And thank you, DG, for posting these in NC.