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

I hope you enjoy and appreciate the poems posted here.

Drinking Milk When It Snows

January 6, 2015

I could never understand
who drinks all this milk, when it snows.

Gallon upon gallon. Quart upon quart.
Half pint upon half pint. Whole milk.
3%, 2%, 1%, fat-free —
Upon the weatherman’s clarion call
the shelves at ShopRite soon bare.
But when it comes down to it —
who drinks all this milk when it snows?

My children do not drink milk anymore,
my grandchildren are forbidden.
My wife no longer drinks milk. No one drinks milk,
or at the least does not admit to it.

Milk is on the endangered species list,
along with the New Jersey Dairy Princess
who no longer gives out free samples
at the Flemington Agricultural Fair.

Worried mothers
empty whole milk purchased in error
down the sink.
Children are forced to drink grapefruit juice.
So tell me who buys all this milk?

Perhaps just a lingering vestige
of my mother’s generation
a custom, a reflex action.
When snow was predicted in the 50’s
children sent scurrying to the store
– to get milk.
This continued through the 60s
when mothers taught that milk formed strong bones,
healthy teeth, radiant white smiles, and a good complexion.
You needed then – to have milk – when it snowed.

Cows,
knowing the pressure to produce continuously,
shuddered in their stalls
when the weatherman on the radios in the dairy barns
forecast snow.

For some inscrutable reason then –
even today –
when snow is predicted,
when the shelves are bare of 1%,
mothers will hold their noses, accept whole milk –
and as the white snow drifts
the wind howls
the electricity goes out
the Wii no longer operational
the family forced to gather together,
shivering before the fireplace
she will be ready when the children wail

“Mom, are you sure we have enough milk?”

Ray Brown

The Scarf

December 30, 2014

Distinctive red lines,
grey, black and white plaids
weaved with a soft touch of cashmere
a gift –
wrapped, yet tied,
casually, but warmly, around my neck.

Blustery winter’s morning.
Sunday’s walk from the car to the church door.

This scarf comforts,
shelters me from the cold.
Like the arms of my love in the morning,
around 6 am
her chenille robe and her embrace
reassuring.

A good scarf is like the tender embrace
of a warm lover
whose intimacy carries the spirit
through a difficult winter.

Ray Brown

The Crèche

December 23, 2014

cover by Teresa Alessandria De Sapio – TADS – Art & Illustration @copyright TADS and Ray Brown

When just a youth, the nativity crèche
held meaning beyond the limits of his young mind.
He played out the scenes with the figurines,
over and over –
the story never old.

His family’s custom was to set the manger in early December
leave the cow’s trough empty,
young baby Jesus would await Christmas day to appear.

The privilege of placing the Christ child
in the yellow straw
his father procured from a local farmer
meant more than even the six shooters and holster
Santa left him under the tree.
He vied with his sisters to be the one
to place the babe – for the first time.

Each night thereafter
before he lay his head upon the pillow
he took the infant in his arms
placed a kiss upon His forehead,
said his evening prayers there – at the foot of the tree.

As with most teenage men
this scene held diminishing fascination.
As a young Harvard educated man
the story, not quite forgotten, but never repeated
lest his intellect be questioned.

The Crèche soon a near forgotten memory
until at age 32, he, himself, had a babe for Christmas.
Somehow it seemed only right,
he not being totally an agnostic,
to place below the trimmed green tree
the figures of a family
and a lone cow at the trough
to breathe warmth.

As he set this scene he remembered younger days.
Father and mother now gone,
the comfort of their home
the warmth of their Christmas manger,
having disappeared.

Placing the young Christ Child on top of the refrigerator
to await Christmas day,
he could not help but plant a kiss upon its forehead
and when he laid his own head upon the pillow that evening
he wondered whether he should have it examined.
A 32 year old broker with a Harvard Masters
kisses the figurine of a young Babe
before he retires?

The next morning over coffee and the Wall Street Journal
he was distracted by the season
and when his wife arose to join him –
they had both long since stopped going to church –
he asked her what she thought about attending Midnight Mass
at the local parish within walking distance, a block and one half away,
if the evening was temperate they could wrap their own babe
in swaddling clothes and share whatever Christmas warmth
this longing fulfilled would bring.

Ray Brown

Sledding on the Hillside near the Train Yard

December 16, 2014

(click – here the voice behind the words) 

Carved into the rock face of the Palisades,
the working men had moved the artwork of nature,
which the Hudson had taken eons to create,
back from the river – to accommodate the rail yards.

From the cliff top
the sixteen sets of parallel rails below
gleamed in the winter sunshine,
enticing young boys.

Across the river,
the streetscape of the vibrant City
spire of the building of the Empire State,
all towered above the ferry boats
chugging, spewing black smoke –
the powerful tugboats guided the freighters –
adrenalin was made for this scene.

A third of the way from the bottom
the immigrant Irish, Italians, Germans, Yugoslavs
who crafted this new monument to progress
left a outcropping plateau, from there a more gentle slope
down the balance of the hill to the yards.

Some would at noon,
black pails in hand,
actually free climb to the landing for their lunch break,
pass around loaves of fresh baked bread,
salami, kielbasa and provolone.

It was here as ten year olds
that we would cart our sleds
on snowy winter days,
waxing the runners with lard
provided by the local butcher’s son.
For hours we would launch
down the lower slope
having packed down the snow with our feet,
slicked it –
Our sleds moved quickly, almost out of control
as the freight trains moved in and out of the yard.

We did not know the word “testosterone” then
but knew we enjoyed it.
The dare devil antics
where we timed our slides to cross the first few tracks
before the marshalling yard goat engine
lumbered across the rails just below.

We left home early in the morning
returned before dark.
Our parents did not worry or wonder.
If they had,
the local police would not have bothered to come look for us
this was how boys became men
learned how to care for themselves and their families
entertained themselves
calculated, took risks, developed their physiques
fine tuned their minds
tilled the fertile ground of imagination
learned how to make decisions
bandaged their own wounds
made their own collective rules
repaired their own sleds –
found the tools to do it.

If Momma knew where we were
I am not certain what she would have said
but Pop, I’m sure, suspected,
understood deep down inside,
having crossed the ocean alone at age 15,
made his own way.

It was here we honed our dreams as well.

Tom saw the raising panorama across the river
and now owns a few of those buildings.

Phil saw the bright lights at Christmas time.
Now the tunes that he would sing
as we walked along the tracks,
fill the canyons of the theaters
across the way.

John looked to the sky,
envisioned the airways of the future –
died piloting one of the human bombs
which destroyed the two Twin challengers
to the Empire State’s supremacy.

Stan became a railway engineer.

Pete, a harbor pilot.

Mario, an Italian restaurateur, a favorite haunt of Sinatra’s Hoboken.

Borislav, his father’ butcher store,
gave his own children more sophisticated
cans of Butcher’s wax for their sleds
and would for certain –
never let them go near the freight yards.

As to Vinnie, he never grew up.
Masculinity drove him
to pilot his yellow Thunderbird
as he did his sled
to attempt to beat a freight train
at a crossing.
He knew enough
not to take Adele with him that day.
He did not make it.

And we all mourned together – and moved on.

December 1935.

Ray Brown

A Different Kind of Snowman

December 9, 2014

He was a different kind of snowman.

Not one rolled from the pristine white, early snow
threaded together innocently, by the giggles of children
with a day off from school.
He was formed in the evening,
from the black icy slush of the curb gutter of Camden,
after the cinders from the truck
had taken their toll
the grit from the everyday walks had stained it.

One needed to be angry to move this
giggles would not suffice.
One needed to be hard to take on the ice,
pack it, meld it together,
make it yield to your desires.

Two brown lumps of dog dung for eyes
replaced the coal.
He took a bra with a leopard design,
left in his back seat from last evening’s conquest,
clipped its hook fast to the middle section
to leave his mark.
The stub of a joint, left on the back floor mat
jammed where the mouth would be.

He was 16,
his fellow urban sculptor – 15.
The 15-year-old had one of those knit hats
with the floppy ear flaps, little black string ties,
that he framed on the skull.
As a 15-year-old he still had those sorts of things.

A snow man built this way was virtually immovable
a tough urban fixture
snow was one thing
but an Ice Man, was another.

When done, he stepped back into the street.
1 am, the only sound the wail of sirens
in the distance, by the hospital.
He took his Ruger Blackhawk .357 from his waist band –
his frustration drilled his Ice Man between
the artificial eyes.

Fifteen minutes later, in the local bodega
his gun drawn again
as the 15-year-old scrounged around
at the snack rack,
grabbing whatever was in reach.

The bodega owner
knew little of snowmen
but much of life and death on this street.
He – had ice in his veins as well
and so in a period of distraction
as the two argued about the need to steal chips —
while the cash drawer awaited,
he reached below the counter
pulled his own Smith & Wesson 9mm –
and shot the Ice Man in the head.

Ray Brown

a delightful gift for the readers in your life. Also a perfect hostess gift or “stocking stuffer”

December 8, 2014

 

Think about my book of poetry“I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life – as a delightful gift for the readers in your life.  Also a perfect hostess gift or “stocking stuffer” – 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.  You will enjoy this new technology if you have never seen it before.

“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,

Ray Brown

Snowy Night In Winter

December 3, 2014

 

(click – hear the voice behind the words)

Mesmerized by the night sky
in lands still rural,
cozy,
the snow falling lazily,
the air just warm enough to be comfortable,
cold enough to keep away the rain.

I stand now, leaning against the bark of this tree
enjoy the noise of a quiet nature
the full moon
the Christmas star awaiting the others.

Perhaps I appreciate this scene more
because I know this placid replica of a painting
will not long last.

Somewhere the winds howl like a pack of wolves
standing like avenging legions
just at the edge of the forest –
waiting for a doe to alight into the moonlit field
try to uncover the remnants of hay grass
which lie below the white topping.

Once the pack is loosed
the snow will swirl beneath their churning paws
all peace will leave this place
as does the holiday – on the day after,
when reality seizes the season in its jaws
and many lose hope.

But there are those of faith
who strive to carry a warm flame –
for as long as it will burn –
who lean against the bark of a tree
appreciatively
on a snowy night in winter.

Ray Brown

Two perfect gifts for the readers in your life, or hostess gifts, or stocking stuffers.

Consider purchasing my book, “I Have His Letters Still” – Poetry of Everyday Life (150 pages – $11.95) Order on Amazonhttp://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon  or Order an autographed copy at http://poet-ray-brown.com/

An inexpensive ($2) Ray Brown ePoetry Chapbook, Poetry of the Season – “Christmas”, six inspirational and thought provoking poems.  Purchase for Kindle readers on Amazon.  http://tinyurl.com/RayBrowneBookChristmas2010 including Free Downloadable applications for your PC, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android.

The Cockbird

November 27, 2014

 

(click – hear the voice behind the words)

They blame soybeans and pesticides.
But the ecology is more complicated.

When I was young, the farm fields
of rural Hunterdon County New Jersey
spawned flocks of Pheasants –
Ring-Necked, brilliant colors of the rainbow.

At age 10,
I’d walked the fields with my father’s short haired pointer
nose to ground, followed their scent,
his rigid stance marked the grassy patches
where nature bred the birds to rest,
lie low, concealed,
camouflaged by fall browned grasses.

At age 14, Thanksgiving afternoon,
my responsibilities as defensive end completed,
I walked those fields with my own dog,
an English Spaniel,
to flush out a fresh one to supplement the turkey.
Marinated in a tomato sauce, seasoned by red wine
I dip the Italian bread, hot from the oven,
in the juices of my plate.

I lost this in my college years.
Brief Thanksgiving vacations
left little time for dogs and guns.
As an educated man,
perhaps I lost the sporting urge as well.

When settled eight years later,
the cut throat pressures of the business world
left me longing for the land again.
I called my father about Thanksgiving morning.
Asked him if he wanted some company going out.

I learned then
what twelve years had wrought.
“I will be picking up the birds about 5 o’clock
Wednesday evening if you want to help.”

No more wild hens to produce
the ring necked cocks so ardently sought.
Not one to be found in this now, semi-rural area.

Paradoxically, it was not new homes,
but unlikely culprits – corn and soybeans.
The hay fields vanished with the milking cows.
Fixed rows of food staples
replaced the grassy scenes
where hens and their broods
formerly moved with stealth and ease
foraged and found abundant insects.

Now pesticides applied
between precise rows of crops
keep both insects and nuisances grass at bay.
Food and shelter gone
the hens and their chicks homeless, needy,
now orphans in a habitat only slightly changed
to the naked eye.

This Thanksgiving Day the hound would be catching
birds in his mouth, from whom the instinct to be flushed
had been bred, or who were too indolent
to want to escape.

I walk the fields preoccupied –
an unrealistic hope –
that I could find one I could respect.
One which like the birds of old
would run as fast as other birds could fly
take a sporting chance at escape –
challenge me, my reactions,
my 35 year old aim.

Now no longer gamebird,
colorful penned up long-tailed beauty
visited by school children in yellow buses
carving pumpkins on the picnic tables –

it is no wonder this walk no longer holds allure.
Even the dogs have lost interest.

Ray Brown

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

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

November 27, 2014

click and hear the voice behind the words

He was a typical 20 year old college student.
She was a serious runner, bedecked in Nike.
Although his age, she had already
run in the Boston and New York City Marathons.

Both home from college,
in Union Township NJ for Thanksgiving
they had a custom of running together,
the Thanksgiving Day 5K Turkey Trot in Flemington,
4,000 runners from 30 States.
For him it was just an opportunity
to be with his girl,
for her, a serious affair.

This would be their third year.
The first two years she had insisted
on not spending the night before at his place
– they were athletes in training –

So last year, around 6:30 the evening before
after they said goodbye
he went out drinking with the guys
and came home 5 o’clock in the morning
though she was supposed to pick him up
at 7:30 am.

When she arrived he was still snoring away.
She paced the living room floor
while he tried to clean up
throw on some cloths
and a dirty pair of sneakers.

They rushed down Highway 31
and between the crowds near Flemington
she would later complain:

“We were so late
we had to run to the starting line
and just keep running from there.”

So this year, she told him
he could make his own way there.
She would drive with her girlfriend.

Wanting to redeem himself
he had trained for months
shopped at Efinger’s Sporting Goods
in Bound Brook
bought himself a completely new outfit,
and the best of running shoes.

He was ready in Flemington
an hour before she usually planned
for them to arrive,
sat in The Great Lodge Coffee Shop,
relaxed with an energy drink
taking in the scene on Main Street
through the large plate glass windows.

Then he actually warmed up,
did some stretching exercises
in which he never believed.
When he spied her at the scorer’s table
getting her entry number
he walked up,
his number already snuggly affixed to his cotton shirt,
wondering whether she
would notice the new doo, which she did.

She speculated whether he had done this just for her,
so curious her first words were:
“Have you been here long?”
although she dreaded the answer
since she noticed that he had
worked up a slight sweat.

As was their custom,
he stood next to her at the starting line
surrounded by runners dressed up as turkeys,
ax men, Pilgrims, and a few Indians
although being an Indian
was no longer politically correct.

The starting gun burst.
Then in the brisk Thanksgiving day air,
as was his practice –
he paced himself a few steps behind her.
In front of the County Courthouse
he usually fell back – 
last year had actually dropped
right out of the race.

They approached the front portico
filled with cheering on lookers
and a few dignitaries.
She glanced back.
He was still just a few paces behind.
She turned it up just a little
only to find that he came up abreast of her.

Stride for stride they met each other’s pace
except that he with longer legs
moved out at one point
as much as 15 yards.
He could have stayed there, but eased up,
let her in the last 3/4ths of a mile
cross the finish line with him
and for a moment in exhaustion
fell into each other’s arms.

When they married the June following graduation
they each wore their running shoes from that day –
he with his tuxedo
and her below her wedding gown.

Ray Brown

A Poignant Thanksgiving

November 25, 2014

(click – hear the voice behind the words) 

She worried this year about Thanksgiving.
Typically a feast beyond which
any reasonable human being ought to indulge,
dishes both traditional – and contemporary overkill –
by 4:30 PM no one except teenage boys
could look at any more food —

Preparing it after all these years became a chore
so much so that at some point in headier days
she started to purchase a turkey and all the fixing dishes
from a graduate of the New York Culinary Institute
who catered these events –

So when that day with family gathered round,
grandma and grandpa,
the kids were anxious to leave
to see a movie, or some of them
intending to head to a bar in the City —
he made them all pack up, turkey and stuffing included,
and they traveled over strident protest,
and resounding refrains of “I hate you” from all corners
through the tunnel, together into the City
where they trolled the canyons until they saw a food bank line –
then exited with the trimmings
and spent the afternoon and evening – together –
ladling soup.

Ray Brown

A Day Aptly Named, Black Friday

November 18, 2014

(click – hear the voice behind the words) 

She was crushed to death on Black Friday.
First in line at the local Wal-Mart
she arrived at 2 am.
The crowd filled in behind her
got more antsy as the hours passed,
the temperature started to dip,
on a day approaching winter
more than Indian Summer.

Though the store was scheduled to open early at 5:30 am,
packed like sardines
people started to push around 4:30.
At first just irritating –
then disconcerting –
finally the jostling morphed into jousting,
became a real concern.

Disoriented she tried to hold her ground
the back of her thighs ached, tightened
from being pushed to the tips of her toes
like a ballerina, which she wasn’t.
A rope divider in front of her
like the red carpet at the Oscars
cordoning off the line
to leave enough space so the store
could actually open the doors when the hour came.

About 4:55
pushed up a few inches at a time
she tried to yell for people to ease off –
no one could hear –
except for the few in the same predicament directly behind her –
the deafness of impending catastrophe.

The crowd acting as if in Times Square at New Year’s,
started a countdown to the opening hour.
By 5:25 no more than a few inches from the glass
she started to rap, with her purse.
She had no idea that her own death was imminent
it was not in the sales flyer –
although not prone,
fear spread through her veins
as if she lay flat over the pit with the pendulum’s blade
moving closer and closer to her chest.

When the blue coated attendants appeared
on the other side of the plate glass
the crowd surged.
Slapped against the pane
the way she had once slapped a rude patron in a bar,
crushed against the door
as if in a giant human vice,
she attempted one last futile call
just before she lost all breath.
Diaphragm and lungs flatted like a pancake.

Few of her Wal-Mart “shopping colleagues”
ever noticed her predicament,
too busy reading the sales signs
or the coupons they held in their hands like prayer cards.
When they straightened out the hysteria,
– a story in and of itself –
her lifeless body slumped to the sidewalk.

What was bred from us
that this crowd could continue on its way
walk right over the body
as they would walk past a homeless man
curled in a sleeping blanket
on the sidewalk in New York?

Who can comprehend
why this should be –
why it came to pass –
crushed to death by her own people
on a day aptly named – Black Friday.

Ray Brown

I Learned to Kill for You

November 11, 2014

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

Alone with My Thoughts

November 4, 2014

 

Alone with My Thoughts

Alone with my thoughts.
Shunned by the darkness.
Captured by the silent reaches of my mind.
Judgments echo through the shadowy corridors.
Reverberate within the walls of my soul.
I am lost.

I long for an anchor.
A place where I can moor my ship.
Await calmer seas.

There is a choice
between a shining chrome alloy pole
constructed of my own being –

and an older wooden one
worn by the sea salt,
requiring much faith.

But if I could rely on the one of my hands
would I be alone,
searching, to begin with?

Ray Brown

Black Cat

October 28, 2014

(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

Mums

October 21, 2014

I read this poem recent at Frenchtown Yoga Loka’s Open Mic.  

 

This poem is included in my book, “I Have His Letters Still”, Poems of Everyday Life, ($11.95) available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/RayBrownAmazon or at http://poet-ray-brown.com

I remember the yellow mums
that adorned the mothers’ sweaters
in those autumn days of the early 60s
when football games were played in the sunlight
on a Saturday afternoon.
Times were more casual,
although the games just as intense.

Then they were known as
the Delaware Valley Regional High School Terriers.
40 years later, Terriers are not
an aggressive enough mascot —
so now they call themselves “the dogs”.

Then, mums told all there was to say
about a mother’s pride
a sense of loyalty to the hometown
how beauty was displayed in simplicity,
and wearing flowers at a football game
was still touching.

They were all there, in the bleachers,
the day when Rick Long had his concussion.
He got kicked in the head
tackling the fullback
for South Hunterdon Regional High School
on Thanksgiving Day.

The mothers gasped,
as he lay so motionless on the field.
Then applauded
as he walked off in a daze
to wander the sidelines.

The whole group consoled Mrs. Long
the sorority of strong women
there for their children,
not because they particularly liked football.

The next morning, a floral arrangement
arrived at Fran Long’s home
just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
This one had the yellow and blue school colors,
but also had the deep crimson and white
the pinks and oranges,
and the little yellow popcorn mums
to fill in between.

Fran was touched by this all…..

and now – 40 years after Rick’s passing
she tends her bed of mums
on the hillside near her driveway entrance.
She has not been back to a football game since.
Today new lights from the field,
blaze and announce the Friday night games –
she lives close enough to hear the crowd roar
after each good tackle,
as they first cheered, then grew eerily silent
after Rick’s.

She knows some young high school girls
undoubtedly still wear the mums
since she finds her yellows,
missing from the hillside garden on Saturday mornings,
plucked at the base
by high school boys
who stop quickly after school
and furtively snip a stem or two
on the afternoon before the Friday night game.

When she notices, she is not upset.
She smiles but a wry little smile.
Ricky, she images, would have done the same –
stopped quickly at someone’s Mum garden
clipped a few without asking –
as he was driving past
in his 66 Chevy Impala
on the day before the ’67 Thanksgiving game.

Ray Brown

A Priest for Halloween

October 14, 2014

I read this Halloween poem at the Yoga Loka’s Frenchtown Open Mic this month.

 

(click: hear the voice behind the words)   

One year, my roommate at Notre Dame,
dressed as a priest for Halloween.
The next, he embellished on this.
Wore his black and white clerical collar
on the North Quad each Saturday night around midnight.
There he would grab by their collars,
drunken students returning from Corby’s tavern
after celebrating the team’s Saturday afternoon victory.

A flashlight in their eyes,
he made them kneel on the green lawn
and confess their sins!
Later at the dorm he would regal us with tales
of those things of which good Catholic boys were capable,
when the spirits moved them.
This all seemed quite scandalous, but was extremely funny.

Thirty-five years later
he is the pastor at Our Lady of the Lake
in South Jersey.
His personality has held him in good stead.
Young people flock to his CYO meetings
since he can shoot the hoops, speaks their language well,
and understands what they are doing on a Saturday night.

Each Halloween I drive the hour and one half
from Frenchtown. We travel to a local tavern
at least forty minutes from the parish center.
He, in his collar, neatly pressed black suit jacket,
impish smile.
I – in a ND helmet and blue and gold jersey.

We each tie one on, like the old days,
are obnoxiously loud without fear.
Other patrons sure – his – is a witty Halloween costume.
No one believes a real priest would be there
in a bar – carrying on – on the Eve of All Saints.

Ironically, Halloween is the only day
of the year when he is now free
to take his costume off.

Ray Brown

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

I Have His Letters Still

October 7, 2014

(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

The Last Thing He Wanted

September 30, 2014

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.

 

 

thoughtsThe last thing he ever wanted was to be a character in a melodrama.

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….

 

Ray Brown

 

Running with Scissors

September 23, 2014

This poem was selected for publication in The Edison Literary Review, Issue 9.

 

 

 

I was tempted the other day,

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.

 

Ray Brown

Pray for Me

September 16, 2014

This poem was written three years ago when a friend called me from his hospital bed.  It turned out to mean much to him.  Recently, the day I came home from my own hospital stay, there was a box waiting by the garage door.  It was a framed copy of this poem and a kind note from my friend.  Life has a way of presenting some unexpected coincidences of meaning  for us to ponder.  Thank you Kim Michael…..

 

My childhood friend,
with whom I had not spoken in four years,
called on Saturday from the cardio unit
at the Veterans’ Hospital in Durham, NC.

A heart attack had felled him –
a thing the Viet Cong could not do
forty years earlier.

Concerned to hear his voice,
he asked that I pray for him.

Having fallen away from faith,
down on my prayers, I hesitated to lie,
yet did not want to tell the truth.
So I joked that I was uncertain
how much good my own prayers would do.

Not having heard from me lately
God might be shocked
when the words percolated to his level
then again, perhaps shocked enough
to pay some attention to my friend.

I thought I understood –
how much a crisis this was for him
but not enough
until he said:

“You know I love you as a brother.”

It was not the words that surprised me,
but the intonation and timing,
a certain hint of resignation in his voice,
concern that if they were not said now –
perhaps there would be no other opportunity.

And so this morning in the pew at Sunday Mass,
in a church which I did not really recognize,
I did not force myself to pray
but prayed nonetheless.
Concerned not with whether there was a God,
nor whether He would hear my prayers,
or act upon them,
but worried only for this, my brother,
for whom no false intellectual pride of my own
could interfere with a simple petition
to a God who once was also a childhood friend
to Whom I had not placed a call in years as well,
nor told Him of my love.

Ray Brown

The Blue Lights Blink Again Tonight

September 11, 2014

 

 

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

 

This is the last of the three pieces I read at Yoga Loka’s Frenchtown Open Mic.  Listen to my experiment in a musical background above and let me know what you think.

 

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

Am I Too Old To Dream

September 9, 2014

farm equipment 3

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?

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

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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