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
Click on each title to read some poems published online.
"Learning to Fly," "Topaz," "Mothers of Boys," "Suicide Rosary," "Science + Religion @ 5 am" (Hole in the Head Review)
"Postcarding to Women in Texas" (Rise Up Review)
"L'chaim" (Halfway Down the Stairs)
"A Daughter Is Clearing Out the House Next Door" (Halfway Down the Stairs)
"The Hawk Elizabeth" (Pine Row Journal)
Poems in Print Journals
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
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
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.
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.
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)
Artwork by John S. Parke
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."
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)