"Tell me a story that will live in my heart forever."
I hope you enjoy and appreciate the poems posted here.
This poem has been awarded a Second Place 2009 Recognition Award by the New Jersey Poetry Society. Thank you to Edith Kaltovich and the other members of the review committee for reading and appreciating my work.
He sat at the edge of his bed, as if it was the edge of life,
and stared ahead into his past.
The open bottle of spirits, dispirited him – as it had for years.
He had searched for himself in many things.
In many places he had found nothing and lost himself.
Longing only for a moment of understanding,
to take a wretched self
stand atop a hill and see something –
instead of the chasm which summoned him.
To the depths he had plummeted.
Plunged headlong into the abyss of empty resonance.
Now desolate, pitiful…
Prepared to step at last into the endless silence
where all retreat, but not at their own time.
Marching to his own drummer,
the constant din of senselessness
had beat until the temples of his head
became the altar upon which he sought rest.
But he had never wanted to be a character in a melodrama….
This poem was selected for publication in The Edison Literary Review, Issue 9.
to run with scissors,
just to prove to my mother
that I could do it safely.
Though I am 35 and she has been gone 10 years
I still cannot do it.
I fear that as she warned,
I would trip and pierce my heart
or gouge my eye out.
Worst yet, I could fall and drive it into the dirt
and dull its sharpened edges
much to my mother’s irritation.
A priest had warned me once
of being with a girl unless I was married.
When I made young love the first time
I thought for sure I would die.
I have made love many times since.
But I still cannot run with scissors.
I read this poem last Friday night at the Yoga Loka Frenchtown Open Mic.
Encrusted 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?
I read this poem last night at the Yoga Loka Frenchtown Open Mic.
My son’s beagle is an old-timer,
like a few of us around town.
There are things we appreciate.
Like when we used to walk together
in the Frenchtown American Legion
Memorial Day parade.
My five-year old waving one of those
small American flags on a wooden dowel.
I, with a Ladies Auxiliary poppy
tucked in the button hole of my coat.
Sam the beagle, our walking companion.
We are both quite older now,
having seen a lot.
The tri-color, tan, black and white,
now walks slowly with arthritic pain
as do I.
My son is now the agile one.
Sam grows hoarse
standing on the top of his dog house,
barking at rabbits he can no longer chase.
They cross his ever narrowing field of vision atop the lawn,
the grandchildren of those he used to run down
come back just to haunt him.
in memory of older, jaunty days
my son got Sam, an “Uncle Sam” custom.
A high collar red, white and blue pull over
with the American stars cape
and one of those striped stove top hats.
When I saw the picture
I asked how Sam – enjoyed being Uncle Sam.
“He must have liked it,”
reported my son. “He did not tear it up.”
He chews on Jack-B-Little pumpkins instead.
Consider purchasing my book, “I Have Your Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life (140 pages – $11.95) Order on Amazon, http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or Order an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com
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.
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 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
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.
AUDIO: (click: hear the voice behind the words)
Market Street Mission
Mike died overnight at the Market Street Mission.
they stuck a shiv somewhere into the seven true ribs,
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.
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.
A Still Small Voice
I held her hand
spoke to her in a still, small voice.
Like a bow to the strings of a violin,
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.
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.
But this song which then captured my heart,
Today I heard my love song.
When the End is Near
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.
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.
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.
Gray matter too is food for thought.
Sustenance of life,
essence of death.
is like embracing saguaro.
A prickly dilemma
is what mankind was designed for…
Or is it destined for?
And now the bridge is gone
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
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
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.
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
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.
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”
“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,