Monday Dec 11

brown.jpg Fleda Brown won the Felix Pollak Prize for her newest collection of poems, Reunion (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007). She has a collection of memoir essays, Driving With Dvorak, be released  in March by the University of Nebraska Press. Her work has won numerous prizes, among them a Pushcart Prize, the Philip Levine Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award, and her work has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She is professor emerita at the University of Delaware, where she taught for 27 years and directed the Poets in the Schools program. She was poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-07. She now lives in Traverse City, and is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.
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Flags
 
 
                                    1
Exhausted flags wave from antennas: they wrap
and flap; they have no insides. Turn them over,
it’s the same, backward. They scatter air into air
that hardly knows the difference. In our minds,
the flag holds everything; it says nothing; 
we salute anyway. Everyone agrees it’s what
we meant, exactly what we meant, the rows of
small horizons beginning and ending discussion.
As if the flag folded and placed in a trunk can
remember the death it signified, or that years later
it can contribute weight to the grief which by then
has begun to turn metaphorical itself, its edges
fading into the landscape like blustery
little antenna-flags.
 
 
                                    2
The American flag has an organized part, neat
shelves, and a fire-lit, starry part. Like the mind,
it wants to attend its own private party,
everything under control. It’s warm in that room,
health and money worries suspended, the buzz
of voices a comfort, like a hive. It’s nice
to sit at a corner window, romanticizing the stars.
It’s nice to shudder down into the wine and music,
going to sleep. Until someone opens the door
and guests begin gathering their coats, and the mind
steps out into the cold air, the lonely part
of itself, wind stringing through, the heavenly host
calling, crying, out there, where the anarchists
are burning everything down.


 
 
 
Reading About the Unsolved Murder at Good Hart, Michigan, 1968

 
 
You get the vertigo of gruesomeness,
door still opening, mother, father, four children,
 
sprawled, unfound a month in the heat. Wall
of flies, bodies melted down to elements. Elemental
 
odor, as if one has tasted flesh oneself.
You wonder how there can be anything after that
 
but the willful separation into opposites—nice
cabin in the wildflower woods and the unspeakable
 
other. How did it get like this, passionate energies
locked up until they stank? For that matter, how do
 
all those women put on burkas and sit in the sun
by the hotel pool, dangling their feet and laughing?
 
The edges of their costumes are blowing in the breeze,
an initial disturbance. Let the door open, let the beholder
 
look closely at the result, and weep, let the tears leave
nothing for the flies, let the flies escape by their devious
 
paths, small black calamities. Like an artificial night
in there, it was. With the ladies across the way
 
playing cards, smelling the smell, their disgusted queries:
“Raccoon?” And the woods going on with their
 
greening: spring beauties and Dutchman’s breeches
so tiny we could miss them, right under our noses.

 
 
 
My House is My Heart

 
 
Someone said my house
is my heart and it seemed
as if it had always been true,
so the next person said it
and so on, foolishly sentimental
but exactly like the truth.
Metaphor having windows
and doors, the house that had been
vacant grew full of heart-thought,
an electrical circuit of neurons,
all their mysteries lit up.
How old the house was, after all,
floors made of several striations
of wood like houses inside
a house! Who wouldn’t want
to live there forever, doors
opening and closing, going on
being my house is my heart,
one noun leaning on the other,
almost indestructible?
It would be entirely natural
though, to accidentally say
my heart is my house, instead,
and let the hardening begin
to creep into the arteries.
To bed down in that small
space and look blankly
out the front windows like
an old woman who has
the groceries delivered because
she never goes out anymore.