Brian Brodeur


Indelible as the knots in boards, most burns
stay on the surface, evidence

of some moment’s carelessness
branded into the cloth. Like dwarf constellations

projected in negative, they punctuate
my chest—white sky, black stars.

Others go deep enough to show skin,
reminding me of what Henri Cartier-Bresson said

about the past, that it’s tabula rasa
but sometimes it comes back like a burp.

Once, I thought I’d be the master
of my own plot, the boss of me.

Now, I’m happy to kill the garden lights
and root around the phlox my wife planted,

and press my face to the dirt, listening
for the scuffle of night creatures in the brush.

It’s not—it never was—the liberty
of breathing the rich mulch-smells of evening air

or feeling weeds licking my bare feet,
but roaming out to the edge of the property

and hearing a voice, so stern and familiar,
calling me by name to come inside.






Clumsiness, your Seventh Day Adventist
grandmother would say,
is symptomatic of the spirit’s ills—
some guilt we feel for our rented view, our week
of perfect weather on the Sound, the absurd
luxury of paddling up the cove to buy
T-shirts that read:
                              I got crabs at Dirty Dick’s.
And don’t these boats at dusk, this affluent
sky, make us want to kneel and lick
the porch slats, splinter our tongues
on the untreated wood?
                                        Tonight, knocking
our empties off the countertop, let us
deserve each other. Reeking smoke
and sweat, let’s lie together
on the sandy sheets, and watch the tide
flood the jetties and pilings outside
where gulls perch for the night, crying foul.




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Brian Brodeur is the author of Other Latitudes (2008), winner of the University of Akron Press’s 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn, and So the Night Cannot Go on without Us (2007), which won the Fall 2006 White Eagle Coffee Store Poetry Chapbook Award. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gettysburg Review, Many Mountains Moving, Margie, River Styx, and online at Verse Daily and The Missouri Review. Brian maintains the blog How a Poem Happens at (, an online anthology of poems and interviews with poets. He lives and works in Fairfax, VA.



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