The Moment

I dreamt I had paid my dues:
I had done my research;
I had sat quietly;
I had taken notes,
organized them carefully
and waited patiently--
not minutes,
not hours,
not days,
nor months, nor seasons, nor years,
but decades--yes decades--

and finally that moment came.
I stood, for I knew I had something to say;
I knew it would not be easy;
it never is in a world that talks on incessantly,
but I stood anyway, not because I wanted to.

I would rather have gone fishing,
and I don't fish.
It seems absurd to lure the hungry,
hook them and yank them from the known
out into a dry existence
where their eyes are too big
and their lungs no longer see,
where their tail flaps,
but there is no longer resistance--
the comfort of something pushing back
gently, with ease,
instead one yank out into an unknown
expanse of thinness,
of clarity.

No, fishing is no sport for me.
Let the fish swim happily
in their thick little world
of mirror liquefied
and wrapped around them
like a great quilt--light, shadow,
birth, death, movement distracting them
from the alpine air
above the lid--

Who would want to be a flying fish anyway?--
to arch out into the unknown,
to know sunlight unfiltered,
to soar up into the heavens
above your old home,
and to find everything you once knew
an illusion, to know worlds
stars, galaxies and universes without end
await your discovery.

Yes, fishing is not my sport,
but I knew my time had come,
I gathered my notes--

There was Marla's chin, eleventh grade,
perfect, and she didn't know it.
She talked on about clubbing,
about fake ID, about drunken nights
on McKinney Ave and the West End,
about meeting the members of KISS,
about going back stage, but not about
going under, being violated
by Gene Simons' foreign tongue,
nor blacking out, nor waking up
in an empty hotel suite, stumbling naked
to the bathroom,
clasping her clothes around her
as if she could remember being swaddled,
as if innocence and safety
and love were still garments you could slip into
like blue jeans and a tank top--
how she looked into the mirror and hated
her hair, her eyes, her nose, lips,
especially that chin with such intensity
she reached two perfectly manicured
fingers down the throat, tried
to offer some sort of sacrifice
to that porcelain alter--
The heaves were dry,
she had nothing left to give.
Her chin would remain beautiful,
as would her thick hair and dark eyes
to God, to me, probably many.  Perhaps
even Gene Simmons
saw the very pinpoint of creation,
of unspeakable truth and light
shine up at him as he penetrated her
and placed her forever
on the alter of Mammon,
the electricity of the whole damn universe blinking
for a millisecond, glitch after glitch,
year after year,
millennium after millennium
as small flames snuffed out.

I looked out on a great audience of incessant talking--
young couples and old, from every nation, kindred, tongue,
wine glasses in hand, slurping on pizza
or octopus, draining down Big Gulps
while stuffing mouths with popcorn and crickets,
chattering around the fringes
of their stories,
carefully stepping around
the black holes
that keep their galaxies spinning,
their tails flapping,
their gills pumping,
their eyes wide and metallic
as they navigate
their way the best they can
around the fish bowl.

I whispered, "I too have sinned"
and sat back down.

A man in a white suite, wearing sandals
and bright red socks smiled,
"Well said, brother, well said."

And I swear I saw that light
that once glimpsed
leaves this world a drop
in a sea of glory.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blue in a Baroque World: The Nourishment of Accepting Darkness in Our Lives (Cold Play, "42" Live)

Clear Lake, Utah © Steve Brown 2013
There is something profoundly life-sustaining about accepting sadness.  I don't mean dwelling in it or seeking it out, but in simply recognizing it as an integral part of yourself and a natural result of loss or a discrepancy between the divine soul within and the often banal world without.

Even when you're on the up-swing of fortune, I think it's healthy to touch base with sorrow through art. It reminds us how fragile we are.  It softens the ego, makes us more human.

Optimism has its place and overall it's probably healthier to have a positive outlook on life.  But to me, the forced smiles of those that deny grief are incredibly frightening.  If you feel like you have to see the silver lining behind every cloud that comes your way, you are not fully experiencing life. Below are two poems I wrote during the time I was losing my father to rare disease that attacked his vital organs.  I didn't set out capture darkness and I was actually often happy during this period, but there was frequently a deep sense of loss that welled up when I sat down to write.  I listened to Cold Play's Viva la Vida album then, and I think much of the albums dark, murky tones in songs like "42"  surfaced through my words, especially in "Blue in a Baroque World":

Blue in a Baroque World

Through some worm hole
there is a cobblestone lane
lined with oil lamps
and pocked with rain.

Galaxies of light unfold
in ripples spreading out
in gathered darkness
puddled at the bottom
of a high hill

The ragged man
with the blue glow
hears a violin in his soul
cut a coarse chord
that says I'm so damn tired

of this.  It isn't his loneliness though
he knows as well
as high halls
and crystal chandeliers.

He'd like to pound a harpsichord
until it squeals like a pig.  For 
some reason he can't explain
he knows traces of God
puddle in the mire

at the bottom of the high hill
where a long tide pushes in

to fill the mud flats
obsidian pocked 
by cold hard rain.

© Steve Brown 2010


My granddaughter refuses
to look in my casket
at my pale, plastic

after my soul has sucked      out.

She sits in the corner on the floor
to the dismay of her mother,
headphones on, tuned out
from the horseshit

they dream up to make me
their vision.

She is totally tuned in
to a song like camphor,
sees a steep hill where wind
blows ferns between
tall trees that seem
to climb out of the sea
churning below,

© Steve Brown 2010

Without You

Here at the Dallas Zoo,
on this great writing get-away,
that anticipated peace
I longed for

     --a week without our boys
     and their noise--

has bloomed black,

a blossom of slick
oyster-like flesh
blocking the river-way
like a dead cow.

Sadness is deep,
breaking apart the rock
that edges
the waterways
of me,

without you,

a little lost

© Steve Brown, 2004


Full moon barefaced
in the brick night.
It's only October, Love,
and January is here.

CAFE austere white,
4:30 AM at the Anasazi Inn.
28 degrees, Love,
as I drive by.

Whaleback rock-thrust
hulking beyond.
It's jagged, Love
living this road.

Star blades.

Even the blue flames
of dawn
won't warm this heart

blown by business
from the tree--

a pit too cold
to rot.

© Steve Brown, 2008

Thursday, December 26, 2013





Dry Creek Farm,
©Steve Brown, 2006

It’s not in the frozen field, the sun low on the skyline,

glazed snow and golden rye stubble.

It’s not in the hawk soaring over fields

of pink mist before a blurred blue-gray horizon.

It’s not in the salmon shimmer of fog

knitted around the knees of the bluff.

Nor in lemon light licking

old clapboard on a house that has stood generations.

Neither the tea kettle, nor lacy white curtains,

not even the wrinkled hand reaching

for a handle smooth as obsidian.

No, it’s the slow settling weight

of will down to bedrock  

knowing light exists surely

as stone.

©Steve Brown, 2013


Oh that Rococo Life

Slowly breaking apart
a cranberry muffin,
sucking down the sweet morsels
with over-creamed coffee.

Palm trees sway beyond

the marble-floored lobby
and empty sunken bar
through great Venetian windows,
beyond a great red-tiled patio
and heavy white balustrade.

I read Pictures of the Gone World
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Says here, poem 25 (quote)
The world is a beautiful place
                                           To be born into
If you don’t mind happiness
                                           Not always being
                                                           So much fun.

 What the hell, I’ll try it.

The kids are with Grandma.
Marci is in class.
the room is paid for
with one week’s salary.

Nothing to do

but hang out at the pool
and read Lawrence Ferlinghetti,
look at beautiful
lotion-glowing bodies
from ages 5 to 70,
weighing between 30
and 250 pounds.

Yes, this world is a beautiful place

to be born into.

Though yesterday

when we got lost
in that neighborhood
of duplexes
and run-down apartment complexes
that didn’t quit qualify for a slum
but was part of the working poor world
that I knew for so long,

and I went in that 7-11

to find some way out
of the hell-mood
I’d sank into
and I saw myself behind the counter
in a stupid dehumanizing uniform
with a stupid name tag on it,
smiling back at myself
knowing I’d always be here,
behind some convenience store counter
working eight hours a day
to get nowhere,

I got to tell you

I thought again
the world
is nothing
but a great big turd ball
with all of us swarming over it,
pushing and shoving
for a chance
to bite right in.

 Today there are palms outside the window,

rich girls in bikinis,
rich daddy’s in loafers,

and it’s true—

                                The world is a beautiful place

To be born into
                                If you don’t mind happiness
Not always being
                                So much fun.

©Steve Brown, 2013


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Relocation Sunday (Rob Thomas, San Francisco, Poetry, Carpe Diem and the Golden Gate)

For whatever reason, I woke with this poem in my head.  Actually, it was more of a song and Rob Thomas sang it sort of like “Downfall”--the first two verses slow and soulful, the last unwound wildly, repeated over and over and then slowly drowned out by guitar.  It works okay as a poem, but it’d rather soar over the cliff as song.  Tyler Brown, someday, give it flight.  Maybe even throw in some chorus girls, if it feels right.

Relocation Sunday

Sunlit spray
Blowing off the waves
Below the Golden Gate

San Francisco
I’m here to stay.
I ain’t ever going back.

No subway.
No elevated.
I’ll sing for my supper.
Everywhere I go,
I’ll walk.

No subway.
No elevated.
I’ll sing for my supper.
Everywhere I go,
I’ll walk.

No subway.
No elevated.
I’ll sing for my supper.
Everywhere I go,
I’ll walk.

No subway.
No elevated.
I’ll sing for my supper.
Everywhere I go,
I’ll walk.

© Steve Brown, 2013


Hoh Rain Forest

Here in the sponge land
of moist temperate air
and giant moss-draped
big leafed maples,
these glacier carved
rock canyon walls
are like God,
seen only by those
willing to believe anything
and those willing
to get down in the mold
and decay of life,
dig through root
and rusted rot,
moving worm
and slug,
and clumps
of moss
by tiny

until stone sacred
is reached.

Mother Theresa
knew God
in the bedrock
beneath crowded clumped

Somewhere above me
the great white peaks
of the Olympic Mountains

and I'm caught between
willing to believe anything
and willing to dig deep.

Notes from the Field

You say I'm a fool to believe.

I've paid my dues,
know these back streets
and dirty alleyways.

Seen a girl's soul break
as her sisters tried to sell her body to me.
One edge, thank God, I turned my back to.

Little lost boy
wandering the dirt calles
looking for God in the eyes of a dog
standing stately on a smoldering heap
of humanity--you can't tell me
unless you've been on your knees
begging God please take this whole damn
hole away--the empty glass towers,
the piercing white meteor showers,
the Milky Way split open, spewing
sterile light, standing the no-man's land
between void and mossy fecundity,
ready to climb the chain link and plunge
to the marble river below.

Unless you've dug
Mother Theresa deep
you can't tell me for sure
God doesn't whisper be still
through the rich eyes
of a child on a Juarez street corner.

What you call shallowness, cowardliness,
taking the easy way out,
stepping away from reality

I call gardening the soul
and I'm ready to get my hands dirty,
dig deep
© Steve Brown, 2012


In this story,
light glistens off composition shingles
in sparks and dashes
pours through a classroom window
onto a common houseplant
while a piano is rubbed to bone
and a guitar is ground down
to bedrock
on Pearl Jam's "Black" blaring
from computer speakers
while I grade papers
on this Veterans Day morning.

In this story,
there are no bombs,
no blood, no dangling arms,
no white-out
as souls suck out
of corpses left
lying in the streets
jungles, deserts, front lawns
of foreign lands
where children
find trinkets, pull
pins to grenades, open
wallets, pull out
credit cards, gum, smokes, pick
at remains of unrecognizable aunts,
uncles, fathers, sisters, mothers,
always the mothers, the hardest part.

In this story,
there's only papers to grade, Smashing Pumpkins
slowly unwinding on "Shakedown 1979"

No war to win, no war to lose,
only a piano, always a piano,

somewhere down the corridors of
the mind, a long hall
of dark, scuffed wood
and dusty gold radiator heaters,
an apartment door open,
open for sound, like the lid
of a Steinway grand,

only it's an old banged-up upright
in a room of smoky blue
light and the silhouette of a man plays
as if he could light the hearts--
10,000 dead veterans
in 10,000 countries.

But, of course he can't.
He can play. I can grade.
Tom Petty can be ready to fly, always.
But this world ain't got wings.
No, baby, this world

ain't got


© Steve Brown, 2012


 Bono & the Big Heat: Drought, Fire, Love and Marriage in the American West

I've been planning to post this poem for sometime, but not necessarily wanting to.  Drought and fire have become the norms of living in the American West.  This year could be 2007 all over.  Once again, we have spent a good chunk of our summer watching fires--both live and on the news.  This is new.  Forest fires were not a regular part of my childhood.  They have and will continue to be part of my children’s.

This is my best poem, which is why I wanted to post it.  But it captures tension in my marriage, which is why I didn’t want to post it.  Marci literally saved my life.  Back in November of 1994 I hit rock bottom for reasons I won’t go into here, reasons I’m not even sure I totally understand, and probably can’t explain.  Anyway, I spent Thanksgiving night 1994 drunk, wandering up and down Mesa Street in El Paso, screaming “I want to die” at the occasional passing car and cursing God for my life.  Somehow I’d become encased in a shell of shyness and couldn’t seem to get out.  I blamed God for my inability to be myself around others, especially women.

I woke up the next morning with this strong impression:  go home.  So, I made plans to move back to Utah after spending 12 crucial teenage and college years away.

Shortly afterward I met Marci, and overall, I’ve been happy ever since.  I have two versions of my life:  one of deep dissatisfaction and anger and one of general satisfaction and deep joy--life before Marci and life after Marci.  She literally rescued me.  But no marriage comes without tension.  This poem records that tension, and that tension is its strength.  However, it’s much easier to share unabashed praises to my wife, and I’ve written many such poems.  Yet, good writing often requires doing the hard thing.  I have no idea if I will ever become known as poet, but if I do, this is one of the poems I want to be known for:

The New West


Cicadas riot outside the window.   Everest on the cot at the foot of our bed sleeps silent.
It is a warm night after an intensely hot day.

Earlier we drove out to investigate the biggest fire in Utah history. 

Over 360,000 acres.  Deep, rutted roads through soft alkali soil.  Neither Lloyd nor I remember these roads this way.  You want us to turn around.  Winding between high brush. 

Finally, first black finger of fire.   The print, really.  Strikingly manicured, smooth as a golf course, black rolling undulations below craggy black basalt cliffs. 

Then a stand of untouched brush and a lone juniper.  “One Tree Hill,” you say  The Joshua Tree.  U2 standing stoic before the shockingly sparse American West, Bono sweating in a white, wife-beater t-shirt.  In different places, that album spoke to us.  The Edge’s fingers clicking the strings like cicadas in the night.  Suddenly searing sounds rip through the atmosphere, bulleting the blue sky.   Bono, a mad preacher, snake charmer, symbol of sex, God, America.  And you give yourself away, and you give… Until, like an Arizona monsoon, the thunderheads rolled on.  Somehow I ended up forty and married. 

At some point we stopped.  Lloyd, the boys, Darth and I hiked up a volcano.  It irritates me that you remain behind.  Love is that way.  I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. 

A spoiled brat I insist you meet me inside myself where it’s impossible.

One hundred and three degrees Fahrenheit.  Heat rises in thick waves off charred grass and heat-polished, volcanic bombs.

The lone, silt covered van sits with you hidden inside, the size of an ant, at the edge of a chalk-white stripe etched across a broad, black valley, two isolated fires still smoldering in the distance.

One wide, like a dust storm.
The other narrow as the funnel of a small tornado.

I can’t live without you.


Sunday, the day of rest. 

I nearly nap on the living room floor after church, dinner and a late afternoon thunder storm.

Cool evening.

I sit at a round table under the swaying colored lights of the patio of the Blue Door Bar,

which we made together, for me,
in memory

of wilder nights and days blurred like smoky dusk following a fire. 

Margarita glasses now filled with milkshakes.

Our boys sit at the black-tiled bar under blinking martini light playing cards with Elvis on the back. 

Lennon is on the t-shirt on the wall in his guerilla suit.

Crickets chirp.

I walk up the lane to visit Mom. 

Deep smell of cool wet woods. 

Afterwards, I grab a flashlight and walk down in the canyon loud with life.  Cicada, cricket.  The night breathes after a short, intense rain.

Tomorrow there will be heat, dust, struggle against drought again.


Cool shade of cottonwood,
Chalk Creek churning,
over worn stone, singing
the same song over thousands of years.

Sunlight on boulders the size of over-stuffed chairs down to the size of ladies purses.

Deep reds,
pale blues,
rounded by the roll of ages.

Turbulent creek-beds during spring run-off.

What if global warming ends the snow-pack,
ends the annual rock toss downstream?

No more high waters cutting into banks,
bringing down trees, piling up crud?

No more silt and shit
beautifully backed up behind log jamb
to fill in with meadow
and cottonwood
and birds singing?

What if the seasons of the west end
and the song of the crashing creeks
goes silent?

What then will be our song?—

You and I colliding
--Indian Mormon and White Agnostic Mormon—

Begetting children here
among these rattlesnakes and song birds?

Will our family go on here
after Dry Creek cuts
through our land dry forever?

© Steve Brown, 2012

He Entered the Poem

through a long stairway, the splintered wood
worn glossy black where heels
long ago chipped away
 the white paint and shoes dragged

down to the concrete-
floored basement.  

Heavy light dropped bars
of metallic dust.

He would have liked a poem of glass
and plush white carpet,
                                over the Aegean

antiquity perched
on an island across
a diamond-studded bay.

But the poem he had entered was the only one open that day
after a deafening sixth period class and a long walk through
Vermillion Cliffs Trailer Court under the intense Arizona sun,
 poverty sweltering like puss.  So, he did only what he could do,
 which is not much.  He added a stanza

An aquarium of glass water,
silver fishes swimming through soft light.

He almost transcended.

© Steve Brown, 2012

The Deep Porch Song


Clock race, heart pace, rat face, gotta get to that place.
Kneel down, prostrate, kiss feet, beg no, please!

I want an old clapboard house
with a white chipped picket fence
and a soggy leaf littered lawn.

I want a long gravel lane
over a slow churning creek
though a dense thicket of dogwood.

I want a narrow valley
cradled between high mountains,
with snow embraced in limestone folds.

I want a deep porch and tarnished door knocker,
I want gold shag carpet and dark wood paneling.
I want dusty old radiator heaters coated
with five thick layers chipped and showing through.

I want the smell of roast beef,
and mashed potatoes.

I want days of sitting
in my rocker reading
Bill Bryson while stoking fire.

© Steve Brown, 2012

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