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Sample Poems by Arthur Brown
A sort of surfacing it seemed to be,
as of a fish into the light and air
that for an instant, as it’s hanging there,
with a strangely steadfast certainty
takes up the currents of another sphere,
before it drops again into its own—
heavy as a triply skipping stone
that will at last forever disappear.
Five gulls, their calls, the crescent moon and sky
(the gray unearthly white against the blue),
the spirit-sounding things of sea and shore
conjoin to lure my untrained ear and eye
to the endlessness of my own death—
then leave me stranded here to live some more.
No child has left me dazed like you just did—
I mean for having grown into adulthood.
“There’s no one home but me,” you said. And I said,
“Things have changed.” That’s more than obvious.
We heard you born from just outside the door,
and seeing what sex you were, that all was well,
we ran for beer and brought St. Pauli Girl
into the room itself, and saw you off
within hours—your mother and father a family.
You say you had a summer guest from Spain.
Now you’re headed off to Martha’s Vineyard.
Tell your dad I’ll call him in July.
Tell him I’d like to share a Guinness with him.
And tell your mom I had a dream of her—
we were climbing a snow-covered mountain.
Give our love to Anna, our goddaughter,
and Benjamin, the baby—is he walking?
Hanging up, I pick up crumbs from the floor—
my wife’s downstairs, the children upstairs fighting.
It was your manner, remote and understanding,
your portrait-of-a-lady voice and presence,
that’s given me this taste of obsolescence.
Driving home they stopped in Riverbend—
Ferris wheels and coasters caught their eye.
“Come on, Dad,” the carny called him—ghostly,
cross-legged on a crate and leaning back,
smoke- and beer-eyed, mustached, parchment-skinned.
His pretty wife chirped out, “Why don’t you try?”
3 Balls to Break 2 Bottles—Millers mostly,
upside down, necks collared in the rack.
“Okay,” he said, almost against his will,
moving to one arm their little son;
“I’ll try it holding him”—a compromise.
“Nah,” the carny said and shook his head,
taking from the wife her dollar bill;
“Mama’ll hold the baby till your done”—
then blew out smoke that did its best to rise
genie-like inside the narrow shed.
Shifting thus their burdens: woman—child,
man—three pocked and heavy yellow balls
(“Polo balls,” it came to him absurdly),
he juggled them five passes just for show,
although the carny wasn’t looking. Prizes
watched him: elves and trolls and kewpie dolls,
snakes whose glassy eyes seemed otherworldly—
waiting mutely there for him to throw.
Missing narrowly its mark the first ball
slammed into the corrugated tin.
“That’s hard enough!” The father’s throw impressed him,
slouching in the corner of his den.
Then everybody heard the baby wail.
Mama turned him toward the goldfish bin,
“Papa’s trying to break the bottles”—kissed him.
Papa didn’t turn and tried again.
The wall resounded like a trashcan drum.
“Oh,” the mother said. The carny nodded:
one ball left, the father could not win,
failing there before his little son,
as if the act foreshadowed things to come.
“A dollar’ll give you four,” the carny prodded,
gambling that the man would not give in.
“Thanks,” he said and turned. “I’ve had my fun.”