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Sample Poems by Arthur Brown


You stand and watch, as from a balcony,
the waves break right to left and left to right
until they merge and form a line of white
diminishing-a scene repeatedly
played out; the shore's theatricality
that seems no less than ours, even the height
of drama, drama as the earthly rite
of motion, mass, and energy.
And then from left to right and right to left
along the sand, converging like the waves,
two runners, male and female, interposed
the human on the scene and, crossing, cleft
the backdrop painted there, upstaged the waves,
and drew a curtain that in parting closed.

The Art Spirit

"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. . . . If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign."
- Robert Henri


The two-by-twelve had turned into a line,
its difference from the river going by
(although the water had a human air
so near the spillway and the DANGER sign),
and from the boulders and the dull gray sky
reflected in the river, caught his eye
and made him momentarily aware
of something there beyond the usual
yet balanced in the horizontal plank-
transforming to invisibility
the visible, and making visible,
thanks to the distance that the river sank,
a depth impossible to see
except in signs, the bulk of which are blank.


Against the emptiness of dull gray light
a plank is balanced on a boulder, one
of many just above the river's height.
A man downriver fishes with his son-
their poles extended, like the plank, in air,
but tapered, disappearing into lines
that slant toward something weighted there.
A cormorant extends its neck, defines
the water with a rapid slapping sound;
light turns to matter and the scene expands-
the bird now flying up and circling round
against the blending horizontal bands
of foreground, river, trees, and dull gray sky-
before a barge begins its going by.


The father and the son stand arm-in-arm,
their fishing and the passing of the barge
allied like levee rocks against the harm
to come-of disaffection, life at large;
the scene already stuff of memory,
existing more in observation than
in matter, more in what they cannot see
behind them or ahead than what they can:
the wake of roiled white-water diminished
hump by hump though never ending, first
becoming last, until it's only finished
going by-and father-son immersed
in other things than fishing at that spot;
one looking back to see what they forgot.

The Wake

Out of the landscape, moving in it now,
the barge appears to have no end-
a medium through which time's passage slows
and can be counted: 3 abreast, 5 deep,
a quarter-mile long from stern to bow,
the contradictory towboat pushing, manned
apparently (behind the long windows)
but in itself a loud, imposing presence
rivaling the river's endlessness,
although the trail of whitewater won't keep
its variation from the river-less
a marker than a disappearance
into light on an unsteady, changing base
and shadows likewise taking place.


May 2008

Driftwood lies promiscuous as bones-
the dead in one another's arms, the moans
of men and women halfway round the world.
Between his grandparents a child curled
and waited for the excavator's hand.
The driftwood piles against the sand.
Appalling post-disaster metaphor.
Yet corpses neither feel more things than this
mere human-looking wood-nor hold, nor kiss.
Nor can a living man be altered more
by what he's heard all week on NPR
of deaths in Sichuan and Myanmar.
The river drifts from left to right, the swallows
dally, bank, and turn-the river follows.