04 November 2006

Featured Poet: Garrett Brown

Garrett J. Brown was born in Baltimore. His poems have recently appeared in the American Poetry Journal, Urbanite Baltimore, the Ledge and has a poem forthcoming in Natural Bridge. In 2000, he won a Creative Writing Fellowship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he graduated with his MFA in Creative Writing. His book-length manuscript, Manna Sifting, was runner-up in the 2003 Maryland Emerging Voices competition and he recently won the Poetry Center of Chicago’s 2005 Juried Reading Contest (www.poetrycenter.org), judged by Jorie Graham. He is currently teaching writing at University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is pursuing his PhD. Garrett’s chapbook, Panning the Sky, was published in 2003 and is available from Pudding House Publications (www.puddinghouse.com).


August 27, 2003

Metaphor is the frayed thread that connects what we desire with what merely exists.

Tony Rothman

Even before squinting through a telescope,

Percival Lowell revealed what he was hoping

to see: exquisite web of channels, evidence

of a vast Venice etched into the rusty disk

of Mars. Did he dream of green-skinned gondoliers

smoothly rowing from pier to alien pier,

soothing their linear canali with Martian song?

Skeptical scientists knew Lowell was wrong;

what we wish to see prevents us from seeing

what is.

Don’t we all wish to draft perfect

lines, envision a complete Cathedral

instead of quarrying the awkward

facts, imperfect stones resisting

the symmetry of the church wall?

Tonight, closer than it will ever be,

I watch the planet from my window and shed

Lowell’s imagined world for the frayed thread

of metaphor. Iron rusting on the surface, the same

element that warms the pigment in our veins: Mars,

a speck of blood in the cold, impenetrable night.

(Originally appeared on the website of the Poetry Center of Chicago; Juried Reading Winner 2005)


Receding hairline, your rented room

in the wooded hills beyond light

pollution and suburbia, your penchant

for slender women with large eyes

and small breasts, talent for language

betrayed by a lazy palate and erratic

handwriting, your quiet disposition

that reminds the self-confident

they too have uncomfortable dreams—

all reduced to pinpricks.

The Giant washed ashore,

his lover’s arrow embedded

in his tree-trunk neck, eyes

fish-lipped into hollows,

seaweed beard. Her hands

molded his flesh, snowball-like,

into white hot spheres, fixed him

how she wanted to remember:

clothed in a lion’s skin,

chased by a scorpion.

Your waitress has small eyes, leaves salsa,

a large basket of chips. Excessive, you think,

as you eat alone, flipping through phone-sex ads

in a free weekly. Invisible points, too, hold weight,

these dark matters you refuse to acknowledge,

even in measured safety. You can’t remember

why Scorpio rises as Orion sets. The Giant

reduced to a belt. Dried mythology gives seed

to words, their stories sloughed—narcissism,

panic, aphrodisiac, pandemonium and mercury.

(Originally appeared in the American Poetry Journal, Winter/Spring 2006)

Lost Anecdote from the Pages of Vasari

Spring cleaning in Baltimore always involved

a yellow bucket sloshing with soapy water

and a rag recognized as the tattered remains

of my father’s bowling shirt, circa 1973.

I would be sent to the front of the house

on the first warm day of shorts

and no socks to wipe the marble steps.

It was also springtime, I would learn years later,

when Michelangelo would visit Carrara and lay

his head on recently quarried blocks. I wiped away

city grime, crushed berries, the dried paste

of bird mess. The stonecutters claim he listened

for cobwebbed whispers, ran his thick fingers

over mineral veins swirled within rock. I was

always amazed at how the marble would hold

the imprint of a leaf dropped in autumn and pressed

into a smudge by a winter of rain. If the tale is true

and the statues did indeed call out to be released

from their stone, imagine the Florentine

walking down East Pratt Street, hundreds of fat cherubs

trapped in the stoops, crying out to the Master as we sit

on their heads, resting cans of beer on their rumps.

(Originally appeared in Pif Magazine, May 2001)


That smaller vessel of gold, or silver-gilt, in which the Eucharist is commonly carried to the sick.

- The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII

At one time a cup suspended

by a chain above the alter,

pulling eyes upward as though

it could condense the dust of Christ

from a cloud of incense. I don’t

believe in saints, but keep Christopher

taped to the windshield as I drive

to the nursing home. A priest will

keep it tucked in a silk pouch hung

around his neck, the weight becoming

a sacred heart that sits against

his own.

If you had a slice

of god’s flesh – thin,

pungent with the fish

the Galileans

caught, the fish that hell

could not digest – what

jewel box would you deem

fit to contain it?

To me it resembles

the disk of tobacco my brother

kept tucked in the back pocket

of his favorite pair of blue jeans,

a circle relic imbedded

in the fabric. It’s always strange,

to see it tossed on my vinyl

passenger seat, as though the Ark

of the Covenant were strapped with

a load of beach towels to the roof

of a burgundy station wagon;

children in the backseat singing

as the sun tints red to their cheeks,

coconut lotion, the sand dunes

spilling onto the road, dust grains

on highway blacktop shimmering.

(Originally appeared in the chapbook, Panning the Sky, 2003)

On Cross Street

At this three-story restaurant the sun-

dried tomatoes are soft on the teeth,

and the windows overlook long trenches

of rowhomes where parents still spank

their children and keep opened cans

of condensed milk in the fridge. I forgot

we lived on this street, back when love was

watching seagulls pick through the garbage.

You wanted something real, my lung on the table,

unfolded like a wet towel, cork particles

in the wine. Below us, gardens furrow

the thin yards between cracked slabs

of pavement. Cucumber kidneys hang

from the fences, a plastic Blessed Mother

spreads her arms over a purple eggplant heart.

(Originally appeared in the chapbook, Panning the Sky, 2003)

Copyright 2006 Garrett Brown

1 comment:

Ben Collins said...

Nice poetry, if you're looking for some more inspiration, you should checkout the beach towels from Terry Rich next time you go to the beach or somewhere sunny!