Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Year: 2011 (page 1 of 9)

So Long, 2011

The same old picture since 2005

What to say about 2011? There are two 2011’s really, neatly divided by a Sunday in late June. Prior to that my year was filled with reading and writing poetry, birding, blogging, the occasional video. The other 2011 was the beginning of parenthood.

It’s hard to imagine any of my previous 41 years have been as life-altering as 2011. Becoming a parent for the first time in June changed every routine in my life. For the better, always for the better, though now that we’re 6 months in we’re finally starting to get some sleep and even a few moments here and there to do things for ourselves. For me, that’s blogging, writing and reading.

Anyway, as usual, here’s my end-of-year reading list. Many of these were chapbooks and most of my reading was done prior to June; in fact, all but the last four were read before June, and I’m not quite through with the last one. Still, here ’tis:

  1. Everything’s Eventual – Stephen King
  2. American Primitive – Mary Oliver
  3. The Planets – Dava Sobel
  4. The Gunslinger – Stephen King (reread)
  5. American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, Volume 1 – John Hollander, ed.
  6. Blameless Mouth – Jessica Fox-Wilson
  7. I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
  8. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (reread)
  9. Scene of the Accident – Howie Good
  10. Disaster Mode – Howie Good
  11. Pay Attention: A River of Stones Anthology – Fiona Robyn & Kaspalita, eds.
  12. Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
  13. Xenocide – Orson Scott Card
  14. Shannon – Campbell McGrath
  15. Woods, Shore, Desert – Thomas Merton
  16. Love is a UFO – Howie Good
  17. The Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp, MD
  18. The Baby Owner’s Manual – Louis Borgenicht, MD & Joe Borgenicht
  19. Your Baby’s First Year – The American Academy of Pediatrics
  20. What to Expect the First Year – Murkoff, Mazel, Eisenberg & Hathaway
  21. Watermark – Clayton T. Michaels (reread)
  22. The Book of Ystwyth: Six Poets on the Art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins – Bonta, James, Selch, Urquhart, Davies & Youmans
  23. Tender Mercies – mark Stratton
  24. Dark & Like a Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine – NS
  25. Children of the Mind – Orson Scott Card
  26. Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer – Robert Swartwood, ed.
  27. Greeks Bearing Gifts – Joseph Harker
  28. Postmarks – mark Stratton
  29. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (reread)

…and a bunch of kids books…

There were no great obsessions this year like last year’s Dark Tower series, though I did go back and reread The Gunslinger. Speaking of rereading, the best book on the list was a reread: Cloud Atlas. Regarding new books, my favorites were probably The Book of Ystwyth, a book so beautiful, I didn’t want to stop looking at it much less reading it. Other favorites were Shannon, Dark and Like a Web and Speaker for the Dead. Of course the run of baby care books were probably the most important and certainly the most useful ones. At 6 months in, though, I find we’re referring to them less and trusting ourselves more.

And though I haven’t been blogging or writing much lately, I have been preparing a short poetry collection. Birds Nobody Loves will be available sometime in mid-January. I’ll post more about it in the coming weeks. Perhaps after I finish that, I’ll start blogging more.

Finally, to those of you who come round here, read and leave comments, thank you. And have a happy 2012.

Joey Doing What He Does



Two Poems at Curio Poetry

I’m honored to have two poems, “Winter Solstice” and “In the Time of the Automobile” (both from my upcoming collection Birds Nobody Loves–More to come stay tuned) in the inaugural issue of Curio Poetry alongside the work of several other fine poets. Thanks to editors Joseph Harker and Tessa Racht for starting this journal and including some of my work. Now, go check it out.


so many acorns on the ground…
someday I’ll get to explain
these to my little boy
how they become trees
with nothing more than water
sun and a little help
from squirrels and blue jays
things about time and the
distance to the sky
and through years
how the trees will still be young
when he is old and
I am gone and there will
still be acorns on the ground
a trail of breadcrumbs
leading back to a forest where
we all grow toward the light

I wrote this last spring when my wife was pregnant and the ground was littered with acorns like I’ve never seen. You couldn’t walk down the street without a constant crunch-crack underfoot, and as I walked the dogs on those spring evenings, my mind was always on my soon-to-arrive son and I wondered—still do—what he’ll make of this world.

Anyway, I forgot I’d written this one and so many months later, when there aren’t so many acorns lying about, here ’tis.

Tender Mercies by mark Stratton

I’ve been carrying mark Stratton’s Tender Mercies (The Pancake Truck Press, 2011) around in my bag for a few months. Mainly it was so I wouldn’t forget to write something about it, but it’s taken me this long. The old blog has fallen down the priority list somewhat these days, but periodically I get the book out, read a few random poems and then stick it back in my bag. Now it’s started to feel like a friend tagging along from place to place offering snapshots and images from dreams and nightmares. It’s a friend who doesn’t explain himself but the conversation is good and usually interesting.

The Cowboy rides
through lead guitar dynamics
a single stream of time
signature changes

–from “Tender Mercy #28D”

That’s the sense I get from Tender Mercies, a collection that began as a series mark posted to his blog about a year ago or so. Sense is a funny thing too, because it doesn’t always make sense to me. I don’t always get what mark’s getting at, but the ride, the language, is a pleasure, and sometimes a line or two finds a place in my mind, takes root and won’t leave me alone. So the book goes back in the bag and I carry it around some more, sometimes forgetting it’s there only to be happily surprised again.

I misplaced my words

I kept them in the lee
Of a tow sail

They went well with
Collard greens
Or a glass of milk.

–from “Tender Mercy #17b”

Earlier this year, mark asked me for feedback on the manuscript and a blurb. I offered those, but I kind of wish I’d had the year to do it. Maybe the blurb would have been better, at any rate. I say that simply because after nearly a year of hanging out with these poems at hospitals, the dentist’s offices, school, who knows where else one finds a few moments to read, I just like them more and more the better I get to know them. I still see a lot of poems about connection and disconnection, love and loss, though, but they get funnier or sharper or wiser with time and rereading. Sometimes more mysterious too. I think good poetry should be like that.

Toxic rains fall not
from only the heavens.
Domestic gods and
Dusting share the blame.

–from “Tender Mercy #14”

In addition to Tender Mercies, mark has just released a limited edition chapbook called Postmarks. There’s also an interesting interview with mark at Jessie Carty’s blog. mark blogs at AGGASPLETCH.

10 Poems

This is somewhat overdue and includes poems I found in September and October. Follow the links and enjoy the work of these fine blogging poets…

“Coyote Crossing” by Chris Clarke. A moving meditation on the cycle of life and death from a roadkilled coyote pup to the golden eagles that bear him away… “He would have been a god here; he lay broken, compromised, / dissolving in the desert heat, insensible, inert.”

“Un Secret Served on a Porcelain Platter with a Fish Head” by PJS. I love the title and those “Wasted girls with gunslinger hips”

“The moon, the sea and the aspen tree” by Sharon Brogan. Lovely lyrical poetry… I can read just the title over and over again… from one of the first blogging poets I ever found.

“Drought-ridden” by Laurie Kolp. A fellow Texan writes about this unending drought… “my mind’s a dervish fit of fear”

“Haiku Headaches” by Juliet Wilson aka Crafty Green Poet. Great haiku with fascinating process notes.

“One foot in front of the other” by Deb Scott… “Some secrets are like a cavity / filled with precious metals”

“Greater Love” by Dick Jones. Powerful meditation on religion’s darker use.

“What’s right in front of me” by Carolee Sherwood…
“three pumpkins flicker and grin on your window sill,/ heads the children cut from their own necks”

“Chivalry” by Joseph Harker. Violence and the beauty of sure movement. Be sure to check out Joseph’s new chapbook Greeks Bearing Gifts.

“you can’t tell direction here” by Dana Guthrie Martin. The poem has been removed as has another I’d planned to link to. Here’s why. Congrats and good luck, Dana.






moonlight sparkles in
grey hair and
bourbon ice

beneath pine trees she
severe counts satellites
on silent skyways

falling stars
fading shine

the sky’s last synaptic glow
strange and waning

the highway fell
silent last summer
no cars since then

her mind wanders
revisiting the cellar
each jug of potable water

she calculates
consumption, her husband’s
weight beside her

bourbon ice (luxury
for special nights like these)
grey hair
moon-sparkling knife

the broken highway
heat lightning
bones in moonlight

Another poem about water, or rather, the lack thereof.

While Sitting in Church

My videopoem “While Sitting in Church” was featured yesterday over at qarrtsiluni as part of the Worship issue. The poem is from my Birds Nobody Loves series, which will hopefully soon become a short collection when I can find the time to finish it off. Anyway, check it out, and thanks to issue editors Kaspa and Fiona who accepted it within hours of my submission. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an acceptance so fast. It’s a great issue they’ve put together so spend a while checking things out, especially Sherry Chandler’s “Doxology.”

Now We Are Six

This blog turns six today. Much has changed in that time, especially in the past few months as I’ve become a dad and find less time for writing. A lot of things in life suddenly seem to… I don’t know… shine?… in new ways. Everything I do and see comes filtered through this peculiar prism. Shine isn’t quite right, though because there’s murkiness too, flowers lit by starlight. An opaque shining, if such a thing can be, because it’s a matter of depth too. There are layers to every decision, every action, and every thing I see or read about that weren’t there before. The recent death of a good friend, a news story about a child abduction, species sliding toward extinction, this infernal drought.

And so I’m not always quite sure what to write or even think about these things. The world is strange and different now, and that is wonderful for someone like me who likes a healthy dose of the unknown out there in front of me. But as much as there is to process and contemplate, I find on most days that I’d rather sit around and play with my almost four-month-old son than sit in front of the computer trying to make sense of it all. Maybe sense shouldn’t be made, at least not yet.

Since the little guy was born, we’ve had to rethink every aspect of how we do even the most mundane things. Not why we do them but the actual mechanics of getting out the door to go to a restaurant or over to someone’s house. The dishes or dinner. I used to buy corn tortillas and fry my own taco shells, now they come from a box. Finding time to read or write is trickier than ever. Still, I’m a writer and a writer’s gotta write. Right? (Ouch, couldn’t resist).

That’s still there, then, albeit slightly submerged and waiting to be fished out. Perhaps that’s why I find myself writing more these days on scraps of paper and in the notes app on my phone, but lately, I’ve been wanting to get back into writing and photography and posting more regularly. I still have this love affair with blogging, I guess, and I miss it even if blogging feels more and more like a transitional moment, the CD step between analog and mp3.

Now, at six, I’m hoping to get back to posting more regularly, at some point if not right away. This blog has opened too many doors and led me to too many interesting people and places, so I’m not done even if I may have been a little quieter of late. So, thanks for reading, you happy few who come ‘round here still. As always, I do appreciate it.

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