Monday Apr 22

BrynerJeanne-creditTammyStreets Jeanne Bryner, a practicing registered nurse, has received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council, and Vermont Studio Center. Her poetry has been adapted for the stage and performed in Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky and Edinburgh, Scotland. With the support of Hiram College's Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities, her nursing poetry has been adapted for the stage and performed by Verb Ballets, Cleveland, Ohio. She has a new play, Foxglove Canyon and her books in print are Breathless, Blind Horse: Poems, Eclipse: Stories, Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered, No Matter How Many Windows, The Wedding of Miss Meredith Mouse and Smoke: Poems, which received second place in the 2012 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards for Public Interest/Creative works category.


Christmas Lights on My Neighbor's Silo

In December
my neighbor's farm
sleeps late, reads mysteries
in bed, doesn't shave
till Sunday.
For Christmas,
his tractor and combine
have asked for new belts,
jazzy suspenders.
Hungry for company
they sit in the red shed
swapping lies
talking hip pain, grease
to ease it and weather.
They don't understand
the farmer
stringing lights like a crown
'round the silo's head
a risk to be walking clouds
and all those orange
electric cords snaking
their way to the barn.
Every night
no matter how fierce
or bitter the winds
after supper
the man rises
puts on his boots and coat
his cap with furry flaps.
He stops only to pet
the calves, then
he plugs in his lights.
Behind gauzy curtains
of snowflakes,
a winter carousel
his palette of colored lights
flying in the sky
a miracle
his young wife's pregnant
this is how happy they are.

Homeroom Poet-Mom:
           For the Second Graders, Catholic Elementary 1989

I did it because Sister Marilyn said I could,
because we both saw
the blindness of Pac Man
the quiet lesson of eating others
who don't look like us.

I did it because after we learn the letters
someday, somebody writes F on our paper.
Because when they don't get our pink trees
with blue apples, they'll point and giggle.
Mom, you hung my Mayflower upside down.

For voice I did it, because one day I knew
they'd be called upon to right world mistakes.
I did it because I knew the magic sweet potato
rooting its vine in water
was a Band-Aid on childhood's sinking ship,

and by the time we see the iceberg,
well, you know the rest. I did it because
Stephanie's mom has hair like brown shoelaces,
Kevin's grandpa's kiss tastes like a popsicle,
and when Brandy's dad hugs her I feel

like I'm flying. I did it so when the big grid fails,
the power's out, they'd be able to find the way
to their own cupboards, feed themselves and others
with whatever wheat's in the pantry. I did it because
not everybody lives at Ozzie and Harriet's, and

(at least in second grade) policemen can be our friends.
I did it because we are paper dolls
terrible and wonderful hands bend us
then throw us away. I did it because
that's my daughter chewing her pencil in row three

and in a creek, my feet sink.
As an act of contrition, I did it
for all the sins of my life.
Locust Shell

Hanging sheets on the line, you find
a locust shell; it clings to the pole's breast,
one of two crosses your husband cut, nailed
and set thirty years ago.

Clean taste of clothespins in your mouth,
March winds, the poles brace themselves,
lean in, lean a little closer to the ground.
Suddenly, this dry well, a body outlined
in brown calls your hand to its brow.

What makes a woman take off, alone,
no note, no time to grab her coat?
In your fingers, a tiny piano with no song,
gently, gently, you elevate her
thorax, the cave that held her heart.

Pressed against your chest, a cupped hand
tends the husk. What fences
do you pledge allegiance to? What flag,
this country? Above sheets and aprons,
songbirds cast their spell, the sky's
metallic blue lowers its faraway swing set.

Why not close both eyes, listen
for children's voices
happiness blown from wands,
even cries from skinned knees?
Remember forever
the brief nature of light
with a kiss you'd heal the world.



Photo Credit: Tammy Streets