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Poetry is always the cat concert under the window of the room
in which the official version of reality is being written. —Charles Simic

Poems in Online Journals

Poems in Print Journals

Image by Tao Yuan

Mistakes of Attraction
by Brett Warren

I awaken to the tinny metronome of a bee

bumping against the second-floor screen

to get at a vase of flowers on the sill. 

I think of us again. I know what it is 

to fly all the way up into the trees 

for nothing.     

 

I uncover the patio furniture, find corpses 

strewn across flowered cushions— 

insects who lusted for pollen 

but suffocated under plastic skies.      

 

Everywhere I look, reminders. 

A swallowtail teeters among sagging petals 

while the cat watches from the porch. 

A mantis prays for romance, even though

he’s about to lose his head.      

 

I wonder if you remember 

the mouse we found electrocuted 

when we pulled the old stove 

away from the wall—a crinkle of gray fur 

in an outlet box, which must have seemed 

the perfect place to stay warm.

(published in Provincetown Magazine)

Still Life With Skeletons and Asian Pear
by Brett Warren

I

 

At the beginning of each week,

I sit with her and make up reasons

it’s not a good week to die:

a ride in the car, her favorite dinner planned.

Lately my reasons have become ridiculous.

I’ve finally hired a court jester.

The queen is giving you a medal. 

On Thursday we’ll make a birthday cake

and set it on fire. She can’t understand

the words anymore—it’s the telling

she hears. This I believe without evidence.

 

II

 

Outside, wind sweeps water 
onto the beach. It rings the rope 
against the flagpole, like a temple bell 
or the singular note of someone sobbing. 
We spend an hour preparing to go.

I hear the wind dying down. 
She insists on carrying a black vinyl purse 
that snaps open and shut with its brassy tooth. 

On the sand, dozens of baby horseshoe crabs

have washed up, each parchment exoskeleton

a perfect miniature of its parent, but translucent. 
She pauses, wondering or remembering. 
I pace back and forth between the dead babies 
and the old lady in the sequined hat. 

 

III

 

I try to let go of the need to understand.

She is like an Asian pear or a tapestry, 
a gold glaze the modern world

could never replicate. I see the precision

of this color and everything within it.

When I close my eyes, I can see it as clearly

as I can hear the rising and falling of her breath. 
I am afraid of forgetting her the way she was. 
None of us will survive THIS, 
she says, frowning at her dinner plate. 

I fall asleep on the sofa, and in my dream 
I am standing on a bridge

with the ghost of my actor friend.

He walks along the railing and says,

You have to let go of letting go. 

He thinks this is funny,

extremely obvious. I wake up.

Everything seems steady, absolute.

I begin to practice remembering. 

 

(published in Cape Cod Poetry Review)

stilllifepainting.jpg
Artwork by John S. Parke
Black Sky

Infinity
by Brett Warren

I used to wish that when it was all over,

I’d be able to visit an alternate universe 

where we’d be our true selves again: you 

in your fifties, me visiting from college, my heart 

years away from knowing what breaking was, 

my arms resting on the cool Spanish tiles 

while you made drinks. We’d go out to the patio, 

dangle our feet in the double-hexagon pool, 

a cubist infinity symbol, and I’d tell you the story 

of how it all happened. I’d skip over the worst parts, 

like how they tried to put you on antipsychotic drugs

because you went naked into the dining room 

and it was upsetting to people who were visiting 

their fully clothed parents. Instead, I’d start 

with an abridged version of the car accident. 

Then I’d tell you the funny things you said 

when you started to go off the deep end.

I’d describe the pretty silver of your hair, 

and tell you how everyone always loved you 

no matter how crazy you became,

even if they didn’t know you before. 

Because you were always still you, somehow.

We’d have gin and tonics with triangles of lime, 

and our glasses would sweat pleasantly

while our feet swayed back and forth

in the silky and luminous water. The lights 

of Los Angeles would still obscure the stars,

but you would fill the universe around us 

with your radiant face and your radiant eyes

and your radiant soul. You’d say how wonderful 

this life is, no matter what. You’d tell me 

I handled everything exactly right, just as you knew 

I would. Later, we’d curl up on opposite ends 

of the Danish sofa, where just by sitting together, 

even with all that happened, we’d remember 

how lucky we are. You’d get out your brushes 

and your ink, and write in the air, in the calligraphy 

of your unmistakable hand, ad astra per aspera: 

to the stars, through difficulties.

 

(published in duality)

Poem in the Woods

In 2022, I had the honor of being one of four poets invited to write for the launch of "Words in the Wild." In this project (the brainstorm of Lauren Wolk and Bob Nash), poems inspired by protected wilderness areas are carved into wood plaques and maintained in perpetuity by Barnstable Land Trust. 

Since then, I have wanted to hear the poem read by more than one voice, since people of all kinds find renewal and solace in wild places. My wish came true this spring, when four generations of the amazing family I married into gathered and made a beautiful recording of "perfectly imperfect" voices ranging from 3 to 92 years of age. The reading ends with our youngest family member, who deserves as many years on this blue-green planet as our oldest has had (so far).
It's up to all of us to make this happen. 

 

Click below to listen to the four-generation recording of "Prayer to the Living World." 

00:00 / 01:15

Prayer to the Living World
by Brett Warren

May I find my way in, from wherever I am,

past loamy bones of fallen logs

unmaking themselves as mushrooms rise.

 

May I be steadied by the give and gift of pine needles
underfoot, by the hollow knock of a northern flicker,

by the call and response of chickadees.

 

May I be thankful for fur snagged on brambles

when a vixen hurried back to her den.

 

For coyote scat, starburst of berries and seeds,

dropped in the middle of a root-knuckled trail.

 

Show me snow split by hooves,

the skittery glyphs of a white-footed mouse,

possum print pressed into mud before daylight.

 

I am here because I am yours. 

I am yours because I am here. 

 

May the trees stand their ground, feed each other,

let us breathe.

 

Permanently installed at Eagle Pond Sanctuary, Cotuit, Massachusetts (trail marker 7)

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