Sunday Jul 14

BrouwerJoel Joel Brouwer is the author of the collections Exactly What HappenedCenturies, And So, and  Off Message. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in AGNI, Boston Review, Crazyhorse, Gettysburg Review, Massachusetts Review, New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Parnassus, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Progressive, Tin House, and other publications. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He is chair of the Department of English at the University of Alabama.

Armed Forces Recruiter in High School Parking Lot
How shall we appeal to your truer self?
Do you long to scale the climbing wall you see
before you but fear you cannot? Need me
to buy your chemistry books? Want to shoot
something but lack an excuse? I was nothing
but a mother of two and a part-time
cosmetologist. Now I’m blind and eat
through a straw. Glory’s all around you,
and you’re getting it all over me too. As a tooth
dissolves overnight in a can of Coke,
so our nation’s need for journalism
melts in the steam of its evaporating youth.
Newspapers! I’d never even noticed them,
had you? We graduated in June, mowed lawns
all summer, September came and we shook
with uncertainty, our fathers eyed our
basement bedrooms, imagining flat screens
where our posters hung, and the planes
hissed follow me and blew. A highly lucrative
variety of Jesus. Money for college even
though I never meant to go. Which imp will
best induce you? Love of country? Hatred
of self? Revenge, fear, boredom? A teaspoon
of sand in your hanky every time you
blow your nose. The chance to savor a fig
and don a rajah’s turban. Can you read
right to left? Can you shoot straight? We want you
until we don’t, but by the time we’ve done
what we must with you, no one else
will want you either, not even yourself,
which is the bright side of the dark side.
Do you have a girl (or boy!) to Skype you?
The switch from thought to act, map to march,
vapor to solid . . . Son, it’s a freaking
enigma. A door you open in the dark.
It’s boiling and noisy and smells like grease
and Mars. Mars the god of war, angry red
as a gal’s spanked ass. Draw down, holy holy,
upon it, not a lot more or less than where
and what you are right now, that’s it, yes gentle,
but push, another planet, that’s it you
little tough! It’s yours. You’re in. And ours.

A Call for Innovative Methodologies for Evaluating the Progress of Wars
Any child can tabulate slaughters,
frigates, ministers, etc.
Let us be modern! E.g., observe the elderly.
Are they on their knees,

literally? Do they roll their eyes
when standing in lines?
Exasperation is a symptom
of hope. Is anyone writing a poem?
Now dig up a snake, out in the forest
or someplace like that. Best
if it’s black. Stare it down
until it isn’t symbolic. Take time
out from bombing to get a good look
at some trees. Consult historians
to confirm your war is unique. Bludgeon
something tender. Note its reaction.
Cross-reference adultery and rabies cases.
Do kisses exist? Assess infant teardrop
output. Is blood visible under
the babies’ skin? Or in its vicinity?

Causation and Correlation in Reykjavik
Icelandic waters
teem with cod
because children here take
lots of cod liver oil
because it teems
with vitamin D.
OK, so now you’re an expert
on Iceland.
I’m just saying these kids
don’t get much sun.
So what, you’re saying
some sentience caused
these waters to teem
with cod so as to prevent
vitamin deficiency
in nearby children?
I’m saying
when Spanish sailors
came to Cuba
they were amazed
the parrots could learn
to speak
and ate them all.
Every one.

Because they
were delicious, or
because they
could speak?
Poet, what are you
squawking about now?
I’m just saying
the top Icelandic brand
of cod liver oil
is Lysi, derived from
the verb “lysa.”
To light up or illuminate.