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Welcome....

Join us at the 5th Annual Bill's Figs Poetry Festival, Sunday 5/18 at 2 pm. Three Bridges, NJ.

An all Open Mic event. Poets from NJ, Pa, and New York City.

I will be reading.

Last year 25 poets read.

____________________________

"Tell me a story that will live in my heart forever."

I hope you enjoy and appreciate the poems posted here.

Pins

May 24, 2013
 

(click: hear the voice behind the words)

 As Memorial Day approaches, a poem in tribute to those who serve. 

 
 On his lapel, stood pins of distinction.   

Signaling fame, however ephemeral

cast in the communality of the iron of endurance

bred by those who walked before him.

 

He did not know them.

In fact, many have long since been forgotten.

As will he, when his pins are left discarded

in a tiny felt lined box

in the attics of memory

where the nuisances of unimportance

are moved with a shambling gate

from one corner to another.

 

Then one day, the curiosity of youth stumbled upon the box –

Blew the dust into the air, opened the lid

and aired the memories of forgotten ideals

cast aside by the arrogant certainty of purpose,

so much a part of the youth’s father.

 

The grandson’s eyes lit up with undoubting gleam –

the brilliance of hope – of endurance beyond adversity.

He grasped the pins and wore them to school the next day –

and into the school yard.

From thence, he set his course as if for mankind

to achieve some deed beyond his means.

As he grew, he treasured those ideals and pins.

Walked steadfast in his grandfather’s footsteps with pride.

 

For humanity he eventually touched this terrestrial sphere ever so

perceptibly.

When he breathed his last sigh, they placed the pins on his lapel

and put a folded flag at his fingertips.

Before they closed the lid, his son removed the pins –

and they gave him the flag.

 

And – as was the custom – with complacent smugness and disdain -

the pins were thereafter sold at the next garage sale.

Ray Brown

This poem is  included in my book,

“I Have His Letters Still”, Poetry of Everyday Life. 

Purchase on Amazon -http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.comThank you

 

Am I Too Old To Dream

May 22, 2013

farm equipment 3Encrusted by years of neglect
my dreams lie wasted
.
Strew along the roadside
like forgotten pieces of farm equipment -
replaced by the practical efficient mechanized implements
of our day to day lives.
Idyllic scenes choked by tall weeds
which grow through the spokes of neglect.

When young I often wondered
what drove people
to forsake these things of beauty,
was tempted myself to clear away the overgrowth,
grease and oil the moveable parts now rusted,
sand and refinish the steel.
Awake their rugged personalities.
Resurrect the sun drenched strength of their owners.

Now I am encrusted myself
have given up on my better instincts.
Let things I once held high above the horizon – fall.
Trampled under my own feet
as I first ran, then marched in lock step
through the tended fields of reality.

Am I too old now, then, to dream?

Can I find some better thing? -
perhaps one which reality would call an illusion
use it to give me guidance.
Have it serve as a North Star.
Take me through the balance of my life.
Give me hope and inspiration -

Or am I simply too old to dream?

Ray Brown

Spaces

May 20, 2013

Pebble on the BeachCan you leave a part of yourself in a place?

Not just any place, of course.

But some especial place.

There are a few spaces on this earth which have touched me at a special time.

The memories which they hold because of my companion.

Shelter provided in my solitude and loneliness.

 But can you leave a part of yourself there?

Is there a way you can become a permanent part of a place?

Etched in its memory, as it is in yours?

Something which the winds of change and the sands of time cannot erode.

Throughout the ages, men have sought to build monuments to themselves in those places

                which they have touched.

Some have endured.  Their architects and artists long since forgotten.  Perhaps never known.

 

As for me, I will cherish being just one more pebble on the beach,

known only to myself

and the one who loves me enough to have placed me there.

And this one act, and that small stone in a big place,

Will mean everything to me – I – having lost myself – in the place.

 

Ray Brown

The Bird at My Window

May 16, 2013

There each day to greet me.
7 am – just as the sun begins its
arc across the southern sky.

The night before on the plain wooden sill
I leave him a few seeds.
In the morning I watch – he bends to pick them up
head swivels effortlessly
as if on twisted spring.
Always alert,
watching for the dangers in his world.

He arrived almost casually one day.
Though now I wonder whether his sojourn was deliberate.
He had no reason to alight here
on my gray sill in the countryside.

This morning when I walked into the room
my shadow startled him  and he was gone.

For days now,
I’ve wondered whether I could entice him to return –
his life and mine
intertwined for brief, but tender moments.
As with many friendships
there was an ebb and flow.
Will we find ourselves longing for these moments?
Will we call this history – “better times”?
Will he return to this spot again
looking for me
as I do for him each morning?

Ray Brown

I Learned to Kill for You

May 15, 2013

A poem in appreciation of those who serve us in difficult times and situations.

(click: hear the voice behind the words)

 I Learned to Kill for You

Just 19, I was ferried through the desert
in a copter. We worried that the eternal sands
of this enemy’s land would choke the intakes.

I had prepared for this,
sharpened my shooting eye,
learned to clean, assemble and disassemble,
mastered the correct hold
to choke the air intake of the enemy, to bring death.

Honed my physique,
fine tuned my body to pain,
practiced war games on the video screens,
bonded with these comrades
with whom I would shortly alight.

Now as we step onto the battle field
I am taken aback by the immediacy
of the enemy’s onslaught.
I had worried about how it would feel
the first time -

But found there was no time to feel – or think.
Instinct and reflex governed.

I simply killed for you.

Ray Brown

This poem is  included in my book,

“I Have His Letters Still”, Poetry of Everyday Life. 

Purchase on Amazon -http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com.  Thank you

The Blue Lights Blink Again Tonight

May 14, 2013

 

 

(click – listen to the voice behind the words – recited to instrumental accompaniment – “Sometime When It Rains” by Secret Garden)

On 11th Street
outside the Senior Citizens’ complex,
the blue lights blink again tonight.

A quarter moon smiles in the dark winter sky above
but not upon this one apartment.
The volunteers remove the stretcher
its extended legs
replace those that can not walk.

It has been a difficult day.
The pain in the morning no different than most.
By noontime it did not subside
and then at nightfall,
the tray of colorful pills having been expended,
there was no choice but to push the insta-alert.

Now as the flashings lights reflect upon the window panes,
barely no one stirred or moved
from within the 15 remaining units.
For most, the night air was too cold,
there was not much they could do,
and this event would remind them of their own frailty
never mind tax emotions meddled by friendship.

Only Joe from Apartment 3C
was spry enough to leave his shelter,
shuffle the 200′ to where the ambulance awaited.
There upon the stretcher he saw her
awake, but in agony.
He grasped her hand -
with the other touched her cheek -
soon had to let go.
He could not keep pace with the young attendants.
As they lifted her into the back
they asked if he was family
and while his 18 month love
would at any other time make him so
he hesitated, until the patrolman,
who knew both he and her
offered him a lift to the hospital
and they went off into the night.

She, touched by the 20 seconds of his presence,
momentarily forgot her circumstance
then when told that Joe was in the car behind
she heard all she needed to be at peace,
silently closed her eyes.

When the straight line beep signaled an emergency
they did not panic, nor did they grab the paddles
to bring her back to her world of suffering -
much as she was shocked, as a babe,
when first brought into the world –
There was no useful purpose.

They had made this trip before, knew her wishes.
They would ride in this procession
planning only to attend to Joe
when they told him the news,
in the hospital waiting room.

Ray Brown

An Old Forgotten Book

May 13, 2013

Join us at Bill’s Fig’s Poetry Festival, this Sunday May 19th between 2 and 4 pm.  Bring a picnic basket and if you are a poet, come prepared to read.  See box at the top of the page for details.  

An Old Forgotten Book

In a stack, in a room
where dust knows no bounds,
in the library,
where their idea is to rent DVD’s
of Mork and Mindy reruns -
lies an old forgotten book.

It called out to me one day
as I walked past -
the raglan blue cover
gold embossed words on the spine.
I needed to stop and bend over,
and peer closely to read.

The binding worn at the top,
actually torn from the numerous times -
opened and closed -
when it had a value so coveted
the time one could keep it as a companion
was strictly limited -
one paid a fine for depriving another
of its words.
Now I could probably walk off with it – and never return.
The library might even feel I was doing it a favor
freeing up space for its new wing
of video game rentals.

Inside its cover was still a cardboard pocket,
a slot where its journeys could be traced -
like the GPS now records
where my car and I have been -
voluntary or not.

I lift the card and find a name — Elijah Pringle
and the date: September 14, 1954.
Could it be 50 years have passed
since hands last touched this paper,
folded open the pages,
saw the words take life in the imagination of the mind?
What does the author think now?
Does he look down
and wonder whether anyone will open its pages again?

Elijah — Elijah Pringle,
where did these words once consumed carry you?
Did they impart wisdom
or relaxation
or stimulate a mind to one great deed,
or prompt one small kindness?

I think I will borrow this book
if it is not now too old and fragile
for the journey to my home -
and like the elder one
I volunteer to take outside
on Saturdays from the nursing home
I’ll treat this long forgotten book
with care,
and hope the attention that I pay to it
will not be its demise.

I fear that when they find these stray old ones
they will not re-shelve them
but sell them instead at the next book fair
to raise money for their borrow a book on-line program
where somehow the pages self-destruct
after two weeks on the computer screen,
no fines are levied
no more shelves, no more dark blue raglan covers
just memories of the words in my mind.

Ray Brown

Mother’s Day

May 8, 2013

Mother’s Day

She looks now from the hillside.
The view is calming, the early morning sunrise
warms the green grass.
Shakes the dew from its slumber
asks it to move along.
Deer visit in the evening.
The flowers her children plant draw their attention.

She still looks forward to Mother’s Day.
They visit then again
pull the weeds the deer ignore,
having weeded their own souls -
visiting Mom does that.

She will enjoy seeing them and the grandchildren
all dressed up for church
heartwarming memories of past Mother’s Days,
when all the hard work looked so pretty.

In heaven they have not resolved
whether to let mothers
have a continuing view of their children’s lives.
They’ve tested it, much too emotional -
emotion the one great gift that they don’t take
when you pass.

So this day Mom gets to see only the best -
savours pride which lingers on the hillside
like the sweet smell of the lilacs, growing along the woods edge,
wafts through the warming air.

Her youngest comes alone in the evening twilight
to sit and watch the deer eat his mother’s fresh flowers.
He was the only one who knew she found the deer beautiful -
and did not mind when they ate the shrubs in the backyard.

Ray Brown

Consider purchasing my book of poems, “I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life ($11.95). Available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com

Market Street Mission

May 6, 2013

 

 

 AUDIO:     (click: hear the voice behind the words)

 

Market Street Mission

 

Mike died overnight at the Market Street Mission.

 

To be more precise,

they stuck a shiv somewhere into the seven true ribs,

costae verae,

probably between rib 3 and 4.

 

Quietly his warm red blood

spilled across the cold floor –

through the thin mattress

which he had returned to each night

for the last week.

A gray wool blanket matted frozen to his chest

when Sam tried to awake him that morning.

 

No one looked too hard for a murderer –

70 men had come and gone that evening and morning

and each was capable of this act when the spirits moved them.

 

The police were casual for the same reason.

Perfunctory.

70 suspects and 70 witnesses each with the same address:

This place – the Market Street Mission – yet no place.

None of them were in,         

literally and figuratively.

 

Even the innocent ones weren’t so innocent.

Few would be able to identify their first-name-only fellow travelers

despite the fact they shared the same haunts, day and night,

never really seeing each other.

 

As the medical examiner’s team lifted Mike onto the gurney

and loaded him into the black bag

something dropped from his clinched fist

which the officers should have discovered – if they cared to look.

 

Last night, as with every evening,

Mike slept clutching his Marworth medallion

just as he clutched his crucifix each evening as a young boy.

 

“Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change –

The courage to change the things I can-

And the wisdom to know the difference.”, read the inscription. 

 

You see, no one freely chooses death when life and hope are an option.

 

Mike was a 5 timer –

Carrier, Alina Lodge, Caron and Marworth twice. –

The last time he got kicked out for wrapping himself in bandages

as would a sophomore in a college joke.

 

An airline pilot, he found the thread

that would weave his death in the Air Force in Afghanistan,

where, while burning off a field of mature Poppies

the aroma triggered a hidden gene he could not control –

later fed by the morphine administered to get him past the shrapnel.

 

Tonight his mother would cry again – but not over today’s death.

No one knew Mike’s last name

and with his last known address only: “Market Street Mission”,

they could not call her.

She had cried over his death a thousand times already,

the living passing away that took him.

She cried until the tears ran dry – and then she cried again.

A month later the Sergeant would find the fingerprint card

tossed aside in a stack of papers.

When submitted, it marked a hit

in the Department of Defense data base.

Someone notified his mother and dispatched a proper escort

with his Purple Heart,

which he had neglected to pick up, or tell anyone about.

 

The examiner’s attendant placed the Medallion back in his hand

and folded the fingers tightly.

With a little luck the coin would be overlooked and

he would be buried with it in the potter’s field.

When they exhumed the body at his mother’s request

her purple heart would shatter yet again

when the undertaker handed her

the medallion of hope Mike carried,

on the evening when all hope was finally snuffed out.

 

At 1 pm that afternoon Mr. KT awoke in the park 4 blocks away.

He casually ignored the blood on his hands.

He had seen it before, probably from scrounging around the

dumpster in back of a restaurant.

 

He stumbled to the water fountain, took a drink and began to scrub -

blood off his hands

and from his Marworth Medallion

which he had slept holding last night.

 

You see, no one freely chooses murder when life and hope

are an option.

 

When finished, he wondered what was for dinner that evening

at the Market Street Mission.

 

 Ray Brown

A Window with the Sunshine

April 28, 2013

I want to sit in a window with the sunshine.

 

When I grow old, that’s all I want -

A restaurant window in the sunshine.

 

My friend, the cherished actor

had his choice of any seat his fame desired.

The maître d’ prepared a quiet table in the corner.

Privacy from peering eyes and boisterous strangers.

 

But for all his years in the limelight,

He sought only one thing –

A window in the sunshine.

 

More than fresh air -

the generous rays of warmth

envelope a personality, etch calm in body and soul.

Solace in elder years.

 

I harkened back to my younger days.

A quiet table in a dark corner, dim lights,

comforted and provided security for me

and the one I loved.

 

And then in middle years, a table twice removed, assuaged my ego.

Assured me of my importance.

Sheltered me from the very fame I sought.

 

And now….and now….

 

As the tide of life recedes,

 

I want to sit in a window with the sunshine.

Ray Brown

Her Fingerprints upon His Heart

February 14, 2012

  

 

(click – hear the voice behind the words)

One of a series of poems written with the language of love, commitment, loss, hope and endearment.  RB

Not so hard a man
he found his touch against her cheek
enough of a message of tenderness
to warm him. 

They would walk
along the tow path of the canal
by the placid Delaware River
near Stockton NJ. 

They talked of life
of why, and here, and now,
and understanding. 

In a walk once through Tinicum Park,
on the Pennsylvania side, while holding hands
they stopped and turned towards one another
and as the near silent breeze
rustled the leaves of fall, they kissed -
an imprint of emotion.
There was within both, this urge of passion
but somehow it was tenderness
that drew them together. 

They enjoyed the shad fest at Lambertville
feed each other by hand
little portions of warm sustenance
and then again, the Chamber concert
at the Lutheran Church in Erwinna. 

One day – as fall turned to winter – she was gone… 

She left alone,
her fingerprints upon his heart.

Ray Brown

A Still Small Voice

February 13, 2012

 

A Still Small Voice

The artist’s melody infused the room.
Embraced the audience.
A violin, a cello, a flute,
a fine tuned piano.

I held her hand
spoke to her in a still, small voice.
Like a bow to the strings of a violin,
it resonated.

Quiet words fashioned — whiffed softly through the night air
tenderly touch the soul
warm the heart.

As we left the chamber hall
I kept this instrument -
a subtle timbre now stirs finer words
no assertive boisterous clamor,
grandiose gesture or performance.
No cymbals or drums.
A subtle melody of human understanding.

I am glad I found this still, small voice.

Ray Brown

Today I Heard My Love Song

February 6, 2012

Today I Heard My Love Song

Today I heard a love song.

A faint reminiscence from long ago
when dreams did not seem beyond my grasp.

Faded memories stirred.
Those mornings when images of her
filled my every waking moment.
When visions accompanied me as vivid companions
throughout the day – until I returned to her at night.

Now but a dim distant feeling,
a metaphor I can barely recall
indistinguishable in the mist that clouds
those long ago emotions.
She simply lingers,
not even now a gray daydream.
Love unrequited.

But this song which then captured my heart,
remains.

Today I heard my love song.

Ray Brown

My Hands

February 3, 2012


My hands no longer
hold the grains of sand,
nor the rays of sunlight
which now slip
between the crevices.

Mimic a sieve -
though there is nothing
left behind to catch and treasure
except for a few shards of glass
in the sand
through which the sun’s rays
reflect a prism…

some consolation.

Ray Brown

He Died with His Spikes On

November 7, 2011

For Veterans’ Day – a tribute to the members of the Greatest Generation.

In tribute to Le Roy “Lee” Hammer
Livingston, NJ

1920-2006

The lady from down the street,
when I meet her someplace,
an elementary school friend
asked about him.

“He always had his baseball uniform on,”

“Day and night as we played in the neighborhood
it was a part of him
as much as his hands,”

“I wondered whether he slept in it.”

Baseball.
His was a generation of baseball.
A generation that traded cards
and then their uniforms – for those of their Country -
while their mothers cried at home
whenever they looked in their closets —

They played pickup games while waiting to ship out
nap sacks as bases
then cleaned up for horrors so bleak
that they returned to never talk about it,
used silent hand signals from the bench
known only to each other
not those in the stands.

He took stenographic notes
of the trials of those who ran the wrong way,
then faced firing squads for the sake of the team -
cried at night –
although baseball players are not supposed to cry.

He returned to become a Livingston NJ diamond,
coached Legion Ball and taught boys of summer
how to become men, face life,
and use the correct parts of speech.

After the field, the Legion Hall was his third base -
an unspoken fraternity where they sat,
wondered without saying,
what they had been through,
still balked about talking about it,
even to each other,
watched the Yankees and listened to Mel Allen

- he waited for when the Pirates were in town.

I wish I could have been there
instead of a safety patrol for the school bus
in Baptistown, New Jersey when
in the 60’s series
Virdon’s ball hit a little stone
popped the Adam’s Apple in Kubek’s tree,
then Mazeroski smashed one over the fence.
I cried – though I am sure he had that wry little smile
of satisfaction, one of the few times the Pirates
lived up to their name and stole something.

“So, did you ever hear about the golfer
who needed two pair of pants
in case he got a ‘hole in one’?”,
he asked the first time he met me.

Those that he touched
filed past
knowing that like the cowboys of old,
he, for certain,
died with his spikes on.

Ray Brown

The Mask of Many Faces

October 28, 2011

 Some thoughts about the costumes we wear year round. 

     

    

AUDIO:     (click: hear the voice behind the words)    

 

 

This poem is  included in my book, “I Have His Letters Still”, Poetry of Everyday Life.  Purchase on Amazon -http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or at http://poet-ray-brown.com.  Thank you.

      

There once was an ordinary man     

who masqueraded as a clown.     

Upon his sleeve, he wore but false emotion.     

      

His countenance bespoke everything – and nothing.     

Perpetual sadness ensconced within,     

his face slipped on the mask of the occasion,      

the personage for whom designed,     

or of the time, perhaps –     

or of the moment, so inclined.     

      

So often having changed expression     

he stood now perpetually expressionless.     

The face his own, or a mask?     

No one, not even he, could tell.     

      

      

An endless fluidity of persona, ebb and flow.     

Harmonized not with appearance.     

Deceived as much by appearance -     

as appearance deceived.     

      

White the cosmetic through which he sought unveiling.     

Unburden for once and for all     

the role he played     

for which the world accepted him.     

White cream produced white heat instead     

though no amount of flame could shear the crust which overlay –     

Rawhide replace where once stood beauty,     

Tenderness of touch,     

Warmth of smile.     

      

Invention upon invention!     

Fiction now ruled     

and sophistry imprisoned him.     

A sorcerer’s fate for a simple man.     

      

Now no more a child’s idol –     

employed at Mardi Gras.     

Grotesque false face of carnival     

Perjured soul     

Splendid thing – now lost.     

      

Can fable save some touch of mediocrity     

to mark the bounds of true complexion?     

Perchance the tears of time     

will wash away     

what otherwise cannot be moved.     

      

Ray Brown

Watch my reading tonight in Philadelphia live – on-line.

October 25, 2011

Watch my reading tonight in Philadelphia live – on-line.

If you can not make my poetry reading in Philadelphia tonight in person, I am told it will be live streamed by Moonstone Arts Center. Go to their website (link below) and click on WATCH LIVE at 7 pm tonight.  http://www.moonstoneartscenter.org/

If you are in the Philadelphia area, please join me at 7 p.m. at:

Robin’s Books and Moonstone Arts Center
110A S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

http://www.moonstoneartscenter.org/about/robins-bookstore/

Thank you,

Ray Brown

Black Cat

October 24, 2011

(click: hear the voice behind the words)

This poem is  included in my book,

 “I Have His Letters Still”, Poetry of Everyday Life. 

Purchase on Amazon -http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com.  Thank you

 

A black cat crosses no path by coincidence.
It searches for its prey, as meticulously
as the lion tracks the wildebeest, circles
then runs it down.

The gatto nero understands its role.
Select one each day – for whom
normal misfortune is insufficient.
Then predict, for no predictable cause,
a tragedy indelibly etched on the mind
by the vision of the cat,
in the pathway of life.

Why stalk its victims? “Why not”, it answers.
This widely held secret –
it succeeds less that 25% of the time.
Batting average .249.

The coincidence of circumstances – not whom the cat chooses,
but whether it is lucky to have chosen someone
whom fate elects to notice that day.

As for the cat, its reputation precedes it.
Little does the world note its failings.
People consider themselves lucky
to have avoided the divination -
to talk about it further would be bad karma.

Ray Brown

I only eat on Friday

September 16, 2011

  Follow this link to hear and see a video reading of this poem on the Internet show – “Poetry Unplugged”, hosted by Philadelphia poet, El Poeta.  The text follows.  http://ustre.am/_1akIn:QpI

I only eat on Fridays

50,000 people die of hunger each day.
A child, every 5 seconds.

Every 5 seconds,
as the world devours a McDonald’s french fry -
starvation consumes a child.

The path to this destination of death – contorted.

At first, pains of hunger turn to numbness
then tissue thin skin
clings to the skeleton, like a balloon out of air
falls amongst the netting on the circus floor
below the high wire of life….

In Costa Rica, 53 years old,
he trudges for the 40th consecutive year,
the 14,600th consecutive day to the refuge dump
where he fights with the other human scavengers – and the rats
for rotten, left over morsels to sustain him and his family.

When the garbage truck arrives they rush like lemmings
or vermin avoiding the exterminator
to be the first ones – or to push to the front
when the dump body releases rotting, days old food.

Sheltered in a tin covered lean-to
an anxious family awaits
having returned from a difficult walk
to the stream below
– where people
bathe, drink, urinate, defecate
and catch amoebic dysentery.

Upon his return, his pickings,
food scraps parceled out among family members
each – with their own day of the week to eat.

In the intervening days,
when the growls pull on the heartstrings of a mother -
when the cries can no longer be tolerated
she mixes clay with salt and water -
a paste more suitable for a child’s nursery school project,
and bakes dirt pies -
so their stomachs feel full.

On the beach at the resort -
with the white colored sand, the crystal blue waters,
under the green trimmed cabana
the ocean waves lullaby my afternoon’s end.
I invite an emaciated urchin to share
half a local unfinished sandwich, one
the restaurant’s garbage purveyor can do without.

I offer it up
encourage this thin replica of a human child
to pick it from the plate -
tears from the child’s eyes -
at first – I thought appreciation
but when he still resisted,
my inquiry answered:

“This is Thursday, and I only get to eat on Friday…

Friday is my day to eat…..”

Ray Brown

I am sure there are many worthy organizations which devote themselves to helping.  This poem was inspired by a presentation made by a representative of  Food for the Poor, Inc..  Read more about this problem and their efforts at http://www.foodforthepoor.org/help/hero/ then donate to this organization or another.  A relatively small donation goes far.  Donate on-line, click here.

Unemployed

September 6, 2011

Unemployed

 

I knew this would be a tough morning for him
just having lost his job at age 52

his wife, three young children,
a mortgage like an albatross around their necks,
a car loan, ballet lessons, soccer camp,
and the looming $100,000 bill for college.

Who could take this all?

I knocked on his door around 10 AM,
a time he would not usually be at home.
I actually rang the doorbell.
I had a box of those round doughnut holes
and a little carrier of Morning Joe.
He had on a bathrobe, partially opened
that looked like it hadn’t been worn since he was in college
a one day old scraggly beard.
If he were Marlon Brando or Broderick Crawford
I’d expect him to have a cigarette dangling from his lips.

The house was immaculate, his wife kept it that way
got the kids off to school, and then left each morning
for her job at the County library in the research department
answering lately e-mails from people
who wanted to know
the latest economic and employment forecasts
but most of whom asked whether there was an on-line source
they hadn’t already checked to find a job.

What could you say
to this once proud man -
not a man of extraordinary ego
just a man who worked hard to make a living
loved his family, took only a little piece of the American dream,
the one that hard work bought.

To be without a job
ready, willing and able to contribute
to receive that severance notice
is like a pin prick to an inflated helium balloon
the air exhausts quickly
the balloon shrivels to a small crumpled remnant of its former self,
falls to the earth.
You can’t put the air back into something
that is not whole any longer.

Gradually I eased him into talking.

At first it didn’t work
but within a half an hour
he was dropping those little doughnut holes
into his coffee mug and jamming them with a spoon
breaking them apart, gobbling the mess between words.

I eased out of him his severance package of a couple of months
how for at least that time his financial life could be the same.
I asked him if his wife had changed in but these 24 hours.
Or if his children had even noticed -
I suggested he not give them something to notice.

I told him about the unemployment office,

where it was located and how not to let disgrace
be his companion when he walked there,

about the group of us who now had a table
in the local library where we checked the Internet
swapped stories about job visits
read each other’s resumes.
At about 10 AM we’d visit the local Dunkin’ Donuts
a cup of coffee still in our respective budgets.
I’d left them there this morning to visit this friend
whom I now invited to become a part
of our newly established fraternity.

It had been four months. I was finally off of Zoloft.
Only took Lunesta on rare occasion.
He recognized me now, no longer a vacant stare.
Remembered his visit to me six months earlier.
Then he came at 7:30 AM — he had a job.

I appreciated the visit

but he never quite understood,
hadn’t discovered yet, how much it takes out of you
leaves you vacant,
dispirited,
feeling worthless in a world that measures
value by dollars and cents.

I know not what the future brings
but know there is a future
will walk this path because I see it well-worn by others.
We will make it, we will all make it.
And then I am not sure what Dunkin’ Donuts will do.
When we had jobs, we used to visit Starbucks.

Ray Brown

 

When the End is Near

September 1, 2011

When the End is Near

When you know the end is near.
When the combat has ended.
And time shows how unimportant
– important things were.
When old enemies prove to be human.
When prospective
– paints hues to old truths.

When you meet an enemy, aged,
-coming out of the hospital elevator.
When you yourself have lost your hair
– to chemotherapy.
When eyes blur the reasons for battle
– along with the battlefield.

When time forgets what the argument was all about.

Then you reminisce for a moment about head strong youth.
Laugh, then hug as you depart –
– a small tear in the corner of your eye.

Knowing this will be the last gesture
–  the battles now concluded
Already forgotten, remembered only
– in the annals of respect.

Ray Brown

If it wasn’t for the Seals

August 30, 2011

If it wasn’t for the Seals

If it wasn’t for the seals laying on the gray sand
the sound of the ocean would be like white noise
piped by architects
to mask a private conversation.

200 yards away
shoals within the rock outcroppings,
thunder holes.
Trident’s domain.
Nature at war with itself.
The waves and the wind seek to claim the landscape
patiently collect their tithe, wear it away
an eight of inch per year.

Earless – and on land,
the seals barely hear the thunderclaps -
faint cannons in the distance.
Here – at a distance,
they fight their own silent battles,
bask in the sun.

With their five-digit webbed fins
flick sand upon their backs
to cool themselves,
lounging around flirting.

Quietly the young brown pelicans,
bide their time.
With the exuberance of youth
watch for the opportunity to dive to capture a meal
willing to test the limits of the sea
determine if the grass is really greener
on the underside of the glass ceiling.

I enjoy this visit on a June day.
Wonder if nature performs just for me,
whether the seals are as curious
about my unique visit
as I am appreciative of this setting
against which the sun nestles
in a near perfect cloudless blue sky.

Ray Brown

Consider purchasing my book of poems,“I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life ($11.95). Available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com

Sagebrush

August 25, 2011

Sagebrush

 

Thoughts ramble through my mind

like the sagebrush of time.

 

Yet with all this thinking

wisdom is still elusive.

Thoughts become tangled in barbed wire fences

never intended for an open range.

 

This sagebrush…

 

Its grayish, green leaves

cast an aromatic fragrance through the still night air.

A cooking herb, once the home of the sage grouse -

The grouse having left no wiser for the nesting…

learned but no longer sage.

Now the small white flowers having fallen

– as all must.

 

My mind…

 

Gray matter too is food for thought.

Sustenance of life,

essence of death.

 

Wrestling thoughts

is like embracing saguaro.

A prickly dilemma

is what mankind was designed for…

 

Or is it destined for?

 

Ray Brown

And now the bridge is gone

August 16, 2011

And now the bridge is gone

As the piers arose from the waters,
foundations erected within pontoons
that kept the flowing waters at bay -
did they think -
it would last forever?

Did the masons erect the stone,
quarried from the nearby hills,
thinking they could conquer the river,
that the rushing currents would work no mischief,
the horses could trod the covered bridge
without fear,
safe from the winds, the rains, the elements?

Occasionally the river would test their mettle.
The waters would swell, muddied,
overflowed its banks, spilled into the low-lying plains.

When finished they met in the center length,
erected the American, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey flags,
the ribbon cut.
Celebrated man’s conquest of nature.

Thereafter the river would taunt them
rise up within a few inches of the main beam.
With the aid of the winds
slap against the wooden span
taunting, biding its time
waiting for the gods to give the word.
Then in ’54, as most of the workmen lie close to their deathbeds
the waters rose up
churned
grabbed debris cast aside
by the lands which sought to be cleansed,
and while curious onlookers

watched what had not been seen for one hundred years,
the waters took a tree trunk
smashed it against the interloper -

and then the bridge was gone

except for the abutments and piers
which the masons knew when erected -
would last virtually forever.

Ray Brown

Consider purchasing my book of poems,“I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life ($11.95). Available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com

The Undercurrent

August 11, 2011

The Undercurrent

Swimming in the shallows after 62 years
he reminisced of that first time,
when against his mother’s wishes,
he waded with childhood friends
into the river’s cool waters,
on a hot summer day.

No thoughts of time,
even the hour their mothers had appointed
for their return home.
Oblivious to its passage -
a blessing of youth.

Now on this day – drawn here -
time was his only companion -
and his preoccupation.
Those childhood friends unavailable.
One a hip replacement,
another Parkinson’s,
the third a heart condition,
the fourth having already lost the race.

The flowing waters lullaby his mind.
He could see the landscapes, the portraits,
painted by his life’s strokes -
dulled with the effects of age
occasionally touched up.

He could still sense that first time together,
unconcerned about the rushing waters,
the future no anxiety.
Now having come full cycle,
there was no reason to look forward
the current’s undertow
was enough for him to handle.

Ray Brown

Consider purchasing my book of poems,“I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life ($11.95). Available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com

Candlelight

August 4, 2011

Candlelight

Once you’ve shared the candlelight,
the glimmer in the evening,
the flame that tempts the moth -
the night is parted in silence.

We pause.
Absorb the small, calm energy.
A warmth which does not ebb and flow with the flicker,
but like rich embers – glows within.

My soul rests,
respite from the trying sun,

I no longer curse the darkness.

I Have His Letters Still

June 3, 2011

(click: hear the voice behind the words)

This is the title poem from my book, “I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life.  To read more excerpt poems, click on the cover below and you will be taken to a digital bookPurchase on Amazon -http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com.  Thank you

cover design by Teresa Alessandria De Sapio of TADS-Art & Illustration

When I was young
they were kept in a shoebox.
Then, in late middle age,
in an old leather correspondence case,
found at a flea market,
kept in the bottom desk drawer.

Handwritten in flowing cursive script
by original Lewis Waterman pen
point dipped in a well
the fountain of personal essence
the blue flowed with emotion
like the waters of life.

Soul captured not by Lucifer
but by the fiber of the paper
crafted in Egypt along the Nile
history nested so deeply between the reeds
weaved invisibly
between the threads of papyrus.

The envelope, self-sealed in a meticulous way
with wax, monogrammed
engraved so beautifully on the back.
The Steamboat Savannah stamp
hand canceled – May 24, 1944
a distinctive ink which marked its journey
as would a traveler his journal
from South Carolina to Baptistown, NJ.

I treasure this letter, and its envelope.
When I pick it up and read
I feel him rising
through the warmth of the words,
grasping my hand…
this post saved in the attic of my memories.

While I have other poets today
their presence I see just fleetingly
on the computer screen,
my palm touch against the monitor
only makes work for me
with Windex.

Though a friend taught me about the “Save” button
I feel as if I have saved nothing, and lost much
each time I push/click -
their correspondence lost -
in impersonal set aside.

Why time took this treasured means of human discourse
there is no answer.
Does it have no sense of history -
permanency?
Upon my death, for what
will they use my leather satchel?

Thankfully — I have his letters still.

Ray Brown

A gift for the readers in your life – or a perfect gift for yourself

February 14, 2011

 

Think about my book of poetry - “I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life – as a gift for the readers in your life. Reasonable priced at $ 11.95.  (150 pages)

64 poems of the world you know – people’s hopes and disappointments – written in language that will capture your imagination.

Consider the following review by M. Ryan on Amazon:

“So much of today’s “poetry” eschews true human feelings as sentimentality and speaks only to an elite group. We can be thankful that there are poets like Ray Brown, who speaks to all readers. From a handwritten letter, a flower, a father’s hands, a sun filled window, Ray Brown, in simple direct language, touches the feelings that make us human—makes us connect with others. Read his poems slowly. Catch the pace he sets. Find the music in the pauses and phrasing that are just right for each poem. Enjoy”

By clicking on the cover of the book to the left, you can read excerpts of the poetry in a special  digital preview copy.    

“I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life – ships immediately upon order.  You can Order on Amazon, http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or purchase an autographed copy on http://poet-ray-brown.com/  and pay securely with PayPal, or Visa, MasterCard, Discover or Amex.  Order from my website and shipping is free. A printable mail order form is also available on the website or simply send payment and delivery information to PO Box 40, Frenchtown, NJ  08825.  

Best to all,

Thank you.

Ray Brown

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