BrickHouse Books’ Prose Editor recently reviewed Erin Adair-Hodges’ debut poetry collection, Let’s All Die Happy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), in the Winter 2017 edition of the Adirondack Review. You can read the review online here: adirondackreview.homestead.com.
This month, we’re bringing you a holiday edition of our featured monthly excerpts with selections from Donald Richardson’s ReUNIONS! Enjoy these three poems, selected by the poet himself!
After hours of drunken sledding late
that snow-covered Christmas night
then back again in the warm house
after shedding our coats
we looked around to find one blond head
missing. We went back out to look and
my sister’s big husband found him pissed and
passed out in a snow drift just above the barns
between some huge boxwoods deep in snow
on his way up the serpentine walk to the big house
(he surely would have died right there)
and saved him to spend the better part
of the next forty years or so
still missing, drunk or passed out
to die at 55 on the coast of Maine
somewhere. . .
but there was never
any better place, softer, quieter
than that deep pure white snow late
Christmas night of 1968.
I knownamalot to whitely quietly dream
of us sledding the huge hill behind Tacaro
on a quite drunk Christmas Eve
now almost 50 years ago.
I couldn’t see the snow;
it kept melting in my eyes,
in my hands, my frozen tears
in my head. It has never melted from
back there in 1968 December 24
and the last Christmas
we would see all of us together
in it blindly racing down the big hill,
the biggest we all might see
through the snow gone to
yesterday or Yesterday’s (a friend’s bar)
to somewhere we would know
only when we got there,
and other hills, other snows, other bars
would find us incomplete
alive and dead all the years since
that particular miracle just melted
before our eyes ever understood
the miracle we were inside of
that was almost all ours
and always would be.
There Are Two Sides
like every argument
has two sides and
what you need
to understand is
what lies between,
how deep it is,
how strong the current is
how far can you swim.
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This month, we’re taking a peak inside Adrian Koesters’ latest, phenomenal release, Three Days with the Long Moon, a collection that author Kathleen Flenniken called “as intimate as love letters.” We agree, and we think you will too.
Remembering backwards, the dizzy recourse
of the year ahead, the one in which you said—you will say—
Remember. The mercy that was last year.
The story of her ankles, the phonograph
playing, the icy stops, fingers wringing,
ankles a cross message, an uncontrolled story.
Advertising the self, the self in one’s hands,
the year an iceberg on which a bell is set backwards,
the self a story of a clapper stopped
against the interior of a yoke. No mercy
at your hands, no rings, no touch uncontrolled.
Working at the backwards grasp, no moment
to finish. Between mercy and mercy
and control, between grasping and control,
between Tell me a story and Touch my hands.
The backward of mercy, the back word of mercy
likely is, will be, if you demand it, Remember.
Remember. The phonograph plays it, counter-clock.
A flaccid arm under the palm of desire
makes a game of hiding in itself
and becomes the bitter wealth of desire
Marriages renew on working promises
held up to cardboard and concrete,
they shine still in the wedding-glass of desire
She kisses an unspent cheek, he touches
her one good breast with his mind
after their long walk in the ruins of desire
The sweetness of all that didn’t happen
on their wedding night melts
when at last they try to snatch at desire
You’re on the threshold of the flash
that inflames old wives, but they won’t
trade in their little secrets of desire
A funnel of smoke, a nib of cocoa
on her lip, spent spirits inside his breath
concoct a likely story of desire
You remember the stones, the shell inside
your pocket, Adrian, the storm that threw
sands against the cottage window of desire
14 Lines on the Nature of Formality
When your friend addressed you as Dear
Heart last morning and Madame
Architect today. As when there are
no egg cups, and you must crack
the soft-boiled eggs into the plate. As when
your brother hands you his razor to shave
your legs, and the key to the wind-up
clock goes missing for lack of winding
and a couple of moves, and as when
in fact the bread has been tossed from the
cupboard but so the chocolate remains.
As when the nylons never leave the drawer.
As when your shoes are all flat ones,
dear heart, your shoes are all flat ones.
Here to Behave
The wolf’s a predator like any
other, so the storyteller says.
Dreaming we don wolf’s
clothes, make ourselves incomp-
rehensible and singular, then
waken, the same sheep.
Dawn brings armistice, recon-
ciliation till the next game
of dusk. Dawn sugar on fingers,
salt behind teeth. Sliced sun in
December fog, browned leaf
on the green bud. Juice of
grapefruit. Stone walk, birds
peck for what they peck. Fires
smoke themselves in the stacks,
walking sticks name us, good,
propels up the worst of the hills.
Yet the night, before the longest moon
rising, utter black. Our greatest friend.
When he says he understands
how we feel, he means,
shut up and grieve, girl, for me!
So many props we need to be
ourselves, brown hair rivering
an eye. cheeks a brisk shine,
heels rocketing, rings blessing—
all the little sisters inhaling labor
to make one lovely enough
to step out the door.
Whatever he says, he wants
a mask, as do we. Stay
grateful with coffee in hand,
morning reddening shade, alone
as granite in a dune.
He’ll be outlasted beautifully,
AESTHETICS IN SKOPJE
most enchanting of knots.
The ugly love the beautiful.
Of course. Wisely,
the beautiful learn
to love the ugly.
Who else would die for them?
Light’s late in winter.
Hand in hand, so many
furred lovelies, laughing
in morning mist, every kiss
tightening the knot.
What the Waking See is available now at online retailers
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Adrian Koesters (Three Days with the Long Moon, Many Parishes) will appear as part of the combined panel and reading “Poetry in Print: The Poetry Book and the Publishing Process” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on October 5th. If you miss that reading, or you just can’t get enough of her extraordinary poetry, worry not! She’ll also appear for a reading later that night at Francie and Finch Booksellers in Lincoln, and later that week at the Book Worm in Omaha.
SAVE THE DATES!
Thursday, October 5th, 11am
“Poetry in Print: The Poetry Book and the Publishing Process”
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Andrews Hall, Bailey Library
625 N. 14th Street
Lincoln, NE 68588
Thursday, October 5th, 6pm
Francie and Finch Booksellers
130 S. 13th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
Saturday, October 7th, 1pm
The Book Worm
90th & Center Streets
2501 South 90th Street, Suite 111
Omaha, NE 68124
Welcome back to another edition of BrickHouse Books’ Featured Excerpts! Last month, we delved into John C. McLucas’ debut novel, Dialogues on the Beach! This month, we’re heading into the world of poetry with Peter Weltner!
The Light of the Sun Become Sea is Weltner’s latest release with BrickHouse Books. Accomplished poet Joseph Stroud wrote of this collection:
. . .These poems. . .meld the past and the present, the personal and the historical, Classicism and Romanticism, myth and the quotidian, Eros and Thanatos. These poems look directly at the world. They don’t flinch in the face of loss and death. They strive for a transcendence where “All’s right. All’s water. All’s paradise shimmering.”
Join us as we explore the beautiful language of this collection, with three excerpts hand-selected by Weltner himself!
All passion’s a chant before sunrise, what is
real, unstoppable, that sanctifies the world,
makes it holier, a man abandoned, his
hopes denied him, mine by women that hurled
you from me. I followed your route. I watched
you walking not to get away, but to be
less ruined, to return some day, touched
by my hands, my lips, your wanting to see
more clearly the rooms we might dwell in, poorer
but more free, seeking to renew what’s below
you, what you’d seen in water flowing under
the bridge, enough rubble there to restore Santiago.
from “The Way Open to Other Ways”
So far north, June shocks as in a Russian
novel. First winter thaws in shadows. Raw
mud turns grass’s emerald. Then the land
flares into the Chinese colors I saw
as the sun shone through crane-white clouds
on an ancient silkscreen, a monk, plain,
hog-fat, sucking plums, making no sounds,
quieter than lotus on the mountain. Plums stain
his robe wine-red. A boat waits by his hut.
In farewell, he embraces the farmer who hoes
his beds, its flowers topaz, agate.
If beauty’s found in decay, winter snows,
in labor, the raked-over loam, the ice-
laden gates, then summer’s paradisal. By stone
walls and cliffs, his skiff flows. Rice
fills his bowl. Peace comes to everyone.
The great good place of the world
is tremulous with light:
a forest of vines and brush,
its pathless ways through loblolly stands,
the flocks of birds encircling a lake,
the geese diving,
each blessing the water,
as ivy, trees sanctify the words
you use, offering you
their meaning, their eloquence.
A sun shines through you
as through a thick fog
that settles over the morning hours
of the city you grew up in, street sounds, songs,
what no one’s ever done with,
the stories they know of glory,
a cooling rain in June,
wet sidewalks, brownstones,
you, a dialogue between dawn and mist,
the light of the sun become sea.
To learn more about Peter Weltner and his works, visit Peter’s BHB Profile Page.