FOR 137 CLEVELAND
we move in the right direction. we change for the
better at the same rate an iceberg melts. almost half
of us say they dont see it melting, but i have some
of it on my lips and hands; you take control of each.
we are dripping at a rate greater than
a heart torn in two by friendly fire.
dont wipe it off.
forget about dripping dry.
be soaked in the spirit of brotherhood,
even you who hate the word.
lets soak up the love before us, every sister, mom,
dad, son, daughter, brother. we are only as good as
we are to each other.
in the fore of winter brown trees and
orange birds you are like laser points;
you give an awfully good
just your forearm is exciting.
i dont know yet that you would hold it
against my cheek while screaming vile
things- my heart a checkered flag to
signal the end of a race.
for now in the damp, once-burnt grass
i inhale you deeply. you point to a coyote
pastures over, runs and leaps with pleasure
through star chickweed, presumably.
and even though it is early, it is
so dark, and evenly; we neither
of us make shadows.
JUST THE TIPS ARE YELLOW OF
gold grasses and bronze sedge combine in the
advent of antlers. trees markedly bare,
just the tips are yellow of
frame the creek a county
over from mine.
clouds striate the sky like vinyl. hawks cry in the
grooves, taking advantage of warm shafts. the last
time i saw you before the women pulled your
oxygen tubes, firm young red maples clinked
together like red stemware outside the lodge
where we danced to Neil Young, even though
it embarrassed us.
i stand alone. not even the sound of a far-off car
or cow, and i hear you quip,
i mean the deal wasnt
supposed to go down
as a shy hen plants her face in the crook of a
pussywillow, filling me with all of your grace.
MAYBE A LITTLE BIT
a calm pond, the only movement is several heads
of turtles, wee periscopes which dip down at times,
to disappear among the water star-wort.
in last years cane song sparrows play close to the
breast low, to the ground. startled by a pale blue moth
i followed its flight, hoping for a landing that never did
only to find a rich blue damselfly in fifth-gear scanning
something at the waters edge. and i scan. constantly.
tree lines, low brush, roadsides, the sky, my self-
as though taking inventory of that mysterious glory,
which can be sensed or grasped and maybe rub off.
AND WE ARE WEDGE SHAPED
you come from eastern parts but remind me
of this north side of a maple, decorated with
candleflame lichen, which gets what it wants
from the rain and fog.
like the plant, you are under threat of sun which
casts light on your various aspects. you disguise
your disgust. i bare myself in order to piss on
potato bugs, trafficking beneath. you lie to me
by omission. you fail to kiss me.
the bark of the blackjack oak is deeply divided
into square plates like cuneiform. when we met
you told me you never did do book-reading.
still, we both appreciate the story blunt
reeds describe on the wet clay.
its been warm for some time, but only now
do i witness the leaf buds of the local buckeye
which hangs above the reservoir. you snap
the Holstein, stands and chews, onions thrust
like tinsel blindly everywhere beneath her grows.
and we may hug the curve at times, but we are
not our grandfathers hands, whittling. we are
unsteady, not grasping, ever oaks-apart.
EXCERPT FROM BREE’S FORTHCOMING MEMOIR LOOKING FOR CHICKENS IN THE DARK
for a long time i was enamored with the water tower i looked out at from my window in the Old Hotel in Pleasureville, KY. when i wrote or drew i might turn my head away from the screen to finish a thought, my eyes went to the window, and straight to the tower from there. or, i would catch it as i came back inside from my big front porch. i looked back at it when i latched the screen door shut again. sometimes the water tower looked awful white to me. other times it was a hospital blue. it seemed to pulsate. it glowed. it radiated.
i often thought about this. what destined the tower to be which color. what made it white now, blue later on? was it how blue the sky was? was it on account of there being no clouds or many clouds and what type of cloud? what about a gray day compared with a bright one? and time of day, too, may factor in. could it be the humidity?
one day i was leaning down to take off a boot when i turned my head, and inadvertently glanced out the window. today the water tower was white. it was a cloudy day with medium sun. mid to late afternoon. made sense to me. i got off the other boot and climbed in bed.
my bed was also my office, dining car, art studio and home theatre. i leaned back on a sheave of down pillows. looked out the window again; this time the water tower was blue.
i got up for a closer examination; standing close to the window i saw two water towers. a white one directly north, which i could see without leaving the bed, and a blue one just out of the frame. you had to be looking north-east to see the blue one. which i had, many times, standing on the front porch to photograph a sunrise. or talking to Shane who had the other side of the front porch. when he and i talked we did so from each our own side of the porch, sitting in a chair facing out, as opposed to facing each other. how many times did i look out at the blue tower, listening to Shanes life-story? telling him mine. we were probably the only people who would listen to us.
from my front porch chair i could not see the white water tower, only the blue. if i was on my bed i could only see the white one. she stood gleaming like a blank sheet of paper i could do anything i liked with: write, draw, collage, de coupage, design a book, make spitballs, paper aeroplanes, origami. i could make everything in the world (except money) with this white tower. for 17 months i thought she was my one and only.
the thrill was gone with the mystery solved. the towers were a constant that changed colors only according to what light and which shadows, like anything else. the white tower was a muse. she taught me to hold on to awe and wonder as though they were twins id given birth to.
Bree’s conversation with Douglas Cole
What inspired you to start writing poetry?
i had thoughts that did not belong in this world, except for that they belonged to me. poems came to me, i struggled to write quickly so i could get down all of the words in the order they appeared in my head. in those initial years, i was merely a vehicle. i read my words to understand myself, my life. who and what i could be so long as i was true to poetry. Poetry was at once an abstraction and entity, and she favored me. a lover one would not do well to disappoint.
Which poets have influenced you? And what did you learn about the process and the forms of poetry from the poets you love?
Anne Sexton initially grabbed me, but i read her letters and discovered i did not like the way she behaved. it was hard, after, to look at her work the same. and now, almost 3 decades later, it is a question we are all asking ourselves – can we take the art and let it be its own gift, with its true value, apart from the artist? i liked how she confronted herself and those in her life. later Langston Hughes reflected back at me my love for mankind. d.a. levy showed me my indignance. his work taught me poems are living creatures, not necessarily unchanging, if indelible. and that they belong to the world. Kenneth Patchen made solemn and real my pursuit and calling – that of a poet who took an oath of poverty in order for my spirit to never be impoverished.
What would you say is the poet’s place in the world today?
a respite from what jars. something true amid such empty, manufactured expressions of reality. an honest look inside the minds of those who seek only to hone in themselves what needs honing. the gift of living words which lead this way and that, yet animated, long after the author’s demise. rhythms which affect the mind and the body in ways not expected. the inimitable which belongs at the same time to everyone and to no one.
Bree’s visual artwork
BREE is a poet, singer, songwriter, publisher and visual artist who worked as a chef, bookseller and bartender until she became disabled in 2013. She founded Green Panda Press (Cleveland, OH) which produced hand-made art and poetry anthologies, memoirs, chapbooks and ephemera of the very small press (2001-2015). She co-authored Akol Ayii Madut’s Sleeping With the Sun In His Eyes,a memoir on escaping genocide in Sudan, traversing several countries by foot and ultimately, working at a Whole Foods in Cleveland. She edited Charle’s Potts’ Valga Krusa, a memoir in two volumes about COSMEP in the 1960’s Berkeley, CA. She has several volumes of poetry, including was chicken trax amid sparrows tread (Temple Books), Laying Pans (Ecstatic Peace) This Dark Junco Morning (Green Panda Press), and Matter Ring (City Poetry). In 2022 Line Rider (Idaho) will publish an omnibus of sorts. In 2015 Bree moved to Pleasureville, KY and began Least Bittern Books, which publishes paperbacks of poets who have a singular voice. She lastly removed herself somewhat from the independent poetry scene in favor of visual art, leading a monastic life in a former brothel. Her drawings and artwork grace the cover of many dozen small press poetry books. She produced more than 200 collages made from a single photograph using the free Microsoft program Paint. Come What May (2017) is a 300 page full color art book which features a selection of these collages, each facing the photo of origin on the opposite page. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant (2016) from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to gauge how nude studies by a female artist were received in various regions of Kentucky. In 2022 KFW awarded her Arts Meets Activist Grant for her project Upcycle, a book, album, workshop and event about Upcycling, or breaking cycles of abuse and trauma through art-making to make something beautiful, and empowering, to benefit the transitional housing program for women and children at Operation Care in Shelbyville, KY. She is a singer-songwriter, nature lovin gal who lives alone in a former post office built in 1919, in Waddy, KY.
Blue Citadel is a column by Douglas Cole (Washington, USA). Novelist, poet, professor and translator.