Jessie Brown

October 30, 2010


January Thaw

Such richness!  So many columns against the snow!
The saplings; the silver birch by the pond; the white birch grove. 
Under stripped bark, their flesh
shows bright yellow, gold.
                                                The trees
do not blame or pray.  They do not weep
over lost marriages, jobs, children.  Theirs 
is the pure present.
                                    And you —
to what are you present?  To
the ice cracking?  The snow’s thudding as it falls?
It creaks underfoot, compacting, cornstarch-dry.
                                    And now
comes the white shower sifting down in the sunlight,
ticking onto the brush below.
The tangle of branches before you.
Pods of snow blossoming on each twist and curve.
The spring of branches as they let go their burden.


Chocolate Cake Instead of a Poem

Is what I have to show.  Oh,
I tried; I sifted metaphors, stirred,
turned up the heat, but
everything only burned.  Still
there’s more than one dish
feeds the soul, as
my mother said, and so
I stayed up baking.  Nothing
difficult.  An
ordinary cake is all. 
Go ahead: bite down
into the layers.  Let the chocolate
melt against your palate.
Take more.
Are you happy? 
This is what
I wanted for you, anyway.



She can nevernever be happy now, our daughter says, because
we let the mouse go.  Under the pines, at the park, while she
was at school.  Didn’t we know she was going to tame it
in a cardboard box?  Feed it saltine crumbs?  Now everything’s
ruined.  She can’t hush, she can’t calm down, what if it
had babies?  They’ll be freezing down in the basement, with no
mother to return.  They’ll be waiting and waiting and waiting.
We’ve ruined everything.  She can never love us again.
Gray shuddering back, white paws, bright eye.


Why I Miss the Lost Trees

because I could stand under one when it rained
because their leaves left ghost-prints on sidewalks
because I had no brothers or sisters

because bark swells and splits and bandages itself
because each branch holds the whole form
because trees grow taller than houses

because they hold the tumbling hillsides back
because buds swell even in winter
because they’re older than we are

because they have witnessed all our transgressions
because the trees can’t do anything
but welcome us anyway


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