for Anne Silver

By Deborah Edler Brown

What poems would you write
about dying? What words
would convey the release
of flesh? Which unlikely
pair would tell the unpairng
of body and soul? What
is the aftertaste of living?

I don’t want to know from you
what comes next, who you meet,
if anything made final sense.
Those are journalist’s questions.

But a poet …

You caught the glow of a yellow
dress on your mother’s clothesline,
have touched the shallow breath
of stones, watched how we leave
our shadows on each other.
So to leave without a word …
How could you?

Does the urge to make poems linger
here, with the last breath, suddenly
heavy like sleep,
or does it beat somewhere still?

The explosion of wings
on a still afternoon, a twilight
slant of light, a passing
song caught like a virus on the wind.
Is this the speech of nature,
or the poems of the recent dead,
a desperate urge to grab anything –
a word, a bird, a flower –
anything to tell another,
one more time,
to look?

And dying.
What poems would you make of dying?

The Use of Heroes
for Stephen Edward Poe

By Deborah Edler Brown

It’s the hat – black leather
shading salty beard, sapphire eyes,
wicked grin – that rises first
in memory. The hat
defied convention, said I am
my own … and a little bit bad.

It’s the bike … the idea of the bike.
I was 24 and you near 50,
too old for me, too old
to 20-something eyes for
motorcycles. But the image
lingers sweet and sharp
as dark ground coffee,
as proof that sex matures.

It’s the voice.
The first time my brother heard it
his teenage jaw hit tile
as he announced,
“There’s a man on the phone!”
Rough and tender, rumbling like
a herd of horses bearing flowers,
hoofbeats drumming Indian prayers
for risk, courage, truth.

I wanted to grow up to be you.

It’s the leap
from fresh-cut girls
to rooted woman, one with soil
and boundaries, offshoots and
imperfections. A promise
that the heart can learn at any age.

It’s the trade of bike and helmet
for cell phone and truck,
of every freeway for one road home
without loss of style or wit or wicked
grin. A secret: you can till the soil and
not be buried by it; no fruit
tastes so sweet as when you grow your own.

It’s the picture – two souls walking
naked toward each other. You
offered it as wisdom, hope and mercy.
A talisman for patience, for trusting
in the mirrored heart.

I wanted to grow up to be you

And it’s the fight, clear-eyed
through the looking glass
as red queen battled white and
lost. You never dropped your eyes
or looked away or told the story different.

and that grin,
sunshine, bonfire, silent kiss
crossed miles and phonelines,
burns on my inner eye till,
like the Cheshire Cat,
it is the comfort that remains …

and still
and still I want to grow and be you.

Deborah Edler Brown wrote her first poem in third grade and has been in love with language ever since, spinning the rhythms and colors of words into poetry, stories, articles, books, and songs. Her work has appeared such anthologies as Poetry Slam (Manic D Press, 2000), So Luminous the Wild Flowers (Tebot Bach, 2003), Blue Arc West (Tebot Bach, 2006), and Sisters Singing: Blessings, Prayers, Art, Songs, Poetry and Sacred Stories by Women (Wild Girl Press, 2008). Deborah was the 2005 recipient of Kalliope’s Sue Saniel Elkind Poetry Prize and is the author of two chapbooks, Red Long Hot Peppers and Haiku Volcano. She was the 1997 National Head-to-Head Haiku Champion and a member of the 1998 Los Angeles National Slam Team. Deborah currently lives in West Los Angeles, where she teaches private writing and performance workshops.