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March 23, 2017 | Poetry

Four Poems

Russell Brakefield

Four Poems photo

Origins

In the beginning all art was audible.

This accounts for the sea in the shell,
the cupped hands of echoes,

ears held against the gravel ground.

In Chauvet and El Castillo, the stomp of hooves.
In Gua Tewat, the scrape of praising palms.

Pictograms still play tight toccatas
in the Cumberland Plateau.

Every man's condition is a solution
in hieroglyphic.[1]

Every man’s a shadow song.

Across cultures, cave paintings hang
in concentrated stains
at the points of best acoustic resonance.

Stone and time hides a sonic canvas.

An atlas of first notation

where the pulse clinging to the rocks
renews itself forever[2]

and learns to sing again.


[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson
[2] Louis Bogan

 

 

The Boy Whose Every Word Was Song

At first it was just birdsong,
                        a garble or warble, a thin red thread
            worried from his throat.

At first only his parents felt the blessing
                        and they kept tight lips, cherished their sleep
            and the hymnal fount they had birthed.

But no one stays a child forever,
                         and in the streets these days
            he sends up a life-stained balloon.

As he walks his daily route—
                        house to park to dark café—
           he speaks and the streets swell and tilt.

He’s alone. It turns out
                         few can stand a life swung through
             with constant serenade.

But strangers bloom around him endlessly.
                      Children follow too close behind.
          The air above his head is licked with song.

And over the buildings and wires and flocks of birds,
           he makes a mirror in the sky that doubles
the clamorous beauty of the living world.

 

Minstrel

Like text book
planets, house

lights orbit
the bandstand.

I was born here,
long ago. Who

ripens in the wings
is gifted

certain flight. Like
memory, time

always happens
to music. A child,

I disrobed a fortune
teller and found 

my own body
dancing,

dancing wildly
in the stage light. 

 

Junk

In the old neighborhood, a boy sucks music
through the straws in his limbs.

Another boy drinks light with his eyes.

Local news muted at the sports bar: “EMS Battles Lethal Cocktail.”
One metaphor carts another as though enough

language could lift away     

            the body.
                         My hometown

scrolls the screen like a single victim

over the bar top clatter. A eulogy
ticker tapes the monitors. The sharper edge of nostalgia

is knowing how you barely got out alive.

Time turns low the house lights and the TV’s
switched to football.

And I’m dragged to the scene of a house fire

windows full of smoke and ash, windows full
of different versions of myself.

 

image: Aaron Burch


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