y e a r s
for J Brown, 1944-2005
b y R o b e r t B o h m
Battered yesterday against the cornstalk
by the storm, it’s gone now, parts strewn
here and there -- the morning-glory. The chocolate
bar in the desk drawer’s gone too. As is, given
to me once in my father’s coal-blackened hands, the need
to see meaning where there isn’t any. Brown’s
also gone. Dead. I knew someday I’d have to
say it: “He’s . . .” I remember the fort
in Augusta. Also, how the church organist played
piano in the motel bar and the cucumbers, like
the unexpressed, were just
starting to come up. Doesn’t
matter. Decades later, an un-
bird with wings no crow
would imitate, Brown still
knew enough about the loony to say goodbye in style.
Gladly trading everything for attitude, he sipped
a Guinness, stared at the creek and said,
“If I’m my brother’s keeper, am I the trout’s
That was back in April. Now, two states
away, there’s only a building and on top of it
an absence that
briefly two days ago
was filled by a human.
One war all those years ago, another now.
Like my daughter and son-in-law taking tango lessons,
mosque and pagoda dance.
I should concentrate on the connection, but can’t.
On TV a zebra herd runs across a plain.
Past and present: nothing but the same plot still going awry.
He lost a leg, I lost my mind.
Let the new ones figure out how to ruin their own lives,
we did just fine alone, once even placing
a dead kid’s contact lens in a dog’s eye.
Did the mutt read Seuss’s goofy stories after that?
Oh well, here a rose, there a pile of crap.
Don’t you agree, Brown?
First your mother called, then your sister, then . . .
Everybody knew the next day by noon:
“He took the elevator up, then improvised the down.”
A windblown night rain washes through
I turn out the light but remain at the desk,
From memory, I recreate a bull eating rice straw
in the perfect quiet of
bombed flutes a few miles north
of Giac Vien Pagoda. Or is the stillness different: all those
Baltimore & Ohio train workers falling silent when
your great-grandfather, after trying to run away
to San Carlos and then being grounded
by his son-in-law, died? Anyway
words do nothing, except
come out for air. It’s still
raining, though, washing
over leaves. That
in the tree), just
it, nothing else, only
the thereness of it, that’s
what we need, something
pre-syllabic, a noise
so basic no
language can mangle it.