Mark Brazaitis is the author of The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and Steal My Heart, a novel published in 2000 by Van Neste Books. His latest book of fiction, An American Affair: Stories, won the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize from Texas Review Press. He is also the author of The Other Language: Poems, winner of the 2008 ABZ Poetry Prize. A former Peace Corps volunteer, he directs the Creative Writing Program at West Virginia University, where he is an associate professor of English. For more, see here.
We Will Know Her By the Height of Her Obscurity
Four stories above the Manhattan street,
she stands on the platform of a Genie® lift
as if behind horses on a celestial chariot,
her face a glowing moon,
her dress an exploding star.
A movie camera and its operator
stand ready in their own high perch
as a man’s voice booms, God-like—
“Silence!”—from a megaphone.
In a crowd of the skyward-looking,
I stand beside a woman in a gray dress,
the faded uniform of a nanny or housekeeper
and wonder if I’m a failure for failing
to recognize the exulted creature.
As if in answer to what I’ve asked her,
my companion whispers, “I don’t know who she is.
But I know she’s famous.”
Twenty Lines about the War
You say you know what
I want. I say, “You haven’t the imagination
to know. And you haven’t asked.”
You say, “I will give you war so you can have
peace.” I say, “If you give me war,
I will give you war, and you will die,
and I will die and you will die and so on
until we agree to stop killing each other,
which is different from peace.” You say
you will change me. And I agree,
knowing I will change in ways you cannot expect
and for which you have not hoped or planned.
And you will change in ways that will shame you.
You already have.
You say that now that you have begun
you will not stop until you achieve
what you intended to achieve. Which is
now to stop what you began.
You say it’s coming to an end. I say,
“Have we even started?”