All posts by James Brush

James Brush lives in Austin, TX where he teaches English, writes, blogs and attempts to get outside as much as possible.

The Ramble

It was a sunnycool autumn day when I wandered
the Ramble in October of 2010. I wound up in
the 80s, planned to hit the Guggenheim, which I’d
wanted to visit ever since I took that art history
class my senior year when I sat between Emily
and sad Maria. But everything in the museum was
dead, just a bunch of paintings and tourists and
a couple of potheads giggling at these famous
pieces by Kandinsky and Pollock and Picasso
and other celebrity artists. But I wanted a hot dog
and to get back to that perfect day where I could
shoot birds with my Nikon, and the leaves all
changing colors in a way they never do in Austin.
I said it was a cool day and I suppose it was, but
I’m not from New York, so what do I know? Maybe
it was hot. And so out onto 5th and back across the
park to the Upper West Side. I hoofed it to Columbus,
loving the city, loving the day, the weather, the birds,
loving you, travelworking in some cubefarm in Midtown
on this beautiful day. I skipped the Natural History
Museum since you’d want to do that and someday
I bet we will, and we’ll bring our son who was with you
that day too even if we didn’t know it. Didn’t know it
at the time, it wasn’t just the two of us anymore.

PAD 2014 #23: Location | NaPoWriMo #21: “New York School

My attempt at a “New York School” poem using many of the “ingredients” listed here. I decided to set it in in my last trip to NYC back in 2010, tagging along with my wife on one of her work trips.

Extreme Love

Love may be found by soaking a piece of moss
in spring water. Love is short and plump

with four pairs of legs, each with four to eight claws
called discs. Love occurs from the Himalayas

to the deep sea, the polar regions to the equator.
Love can withstand temperatures just above

absolute zero to well above the boiling point
of water, pressures six times those found

on the bottom of the oceans, ionizing
radiation at doses hundreds of times the

lethal dose for humans, and the vacuum
of outer space. Love is water dwelling. As water

expands upon freezing, dehydration ensures love
won’t get ripped apart by the ice. Love can survive

in a desiccated state for 10 years. Over 1100 species
of love have been identified. Most species of love

are plant eaters, but some are predatory. Love is
ancient, dating from the Cambrian. Love may be

viewed under a low power microscope, making love
accessible to students and amateur scientists.

This is a response to Dave Bonta’s Facebook call to write a poem about the extremophile Tardigrade aka Water Bear. It’s in a similar vein to last week’s Desire/Tarantula Hawk replacement poem. This is kind of a fun exercise, and I wonder if I might keep doing this. Maybe come up with a field guide to the emotions or something like that. I used Wikipedia for my source material.

Lazarus Jewelbox

Inside a shell, there was a sea
holding all the world’s blue waters.
But it was also half full of drought.

All she’d ever known was drought,
but ear to the shell, she heard the sea,
the circling cadence of the waters.

Caroline released the waters
and left a shell now full of drought
and threw it deep into the sea.

Sea waters stall the birth of drought.

PAD 2014: #22: Optimism/Pessimism | NaPoWriMo #19: Seashells

After yesterday’s attempt at a sestina, I decided to try the related tritina, which seems to offer a bit less rope with which to hang oneself.

The Basics of Pressing Flowers

The burned land around the lake is dead
while up above the sky glows red.
Is this the song you longed to sing?
Because now it doesn’t mean a thing.
In this wasteland rid of wildflowers,
my watch ticks away the painful hours.

I walked these ruins for many hours,
imagining the ancient dead.
Around the tombs, funerary flowers
plastic yellow, orange and red.
You once asked if I knew anything.
I said perhaps we should just sing.

Remember all the kids out cruising?
Driving fast through midnight hours
stupid believing we knew everything
we just jammed to the Grateful Dead.
Now I search the books you read,
and find, pressed, your favorite flowers.

I asked an expert the meaning of flowers.
She smiled and asked what I was using.
She said, You tremble and your eyes are red.
Never mind
, I said, it was this love of ours,
and these flowers have long gone dead
so now their meaning isn’t anything.

She said, Don’t you think love’s a thing
that we can write in old pressed flowers?
In these pages they’re not dead,
and if you listen, you’ll hear them sing
that lovely forgotten song of hours
spent watching as the sky turned red.

And so I stop and think of you, Mildred,
and I search for a trace of anything
that might speed up these lonely hours
and help me find the proper flowers
to answer you in pages pressing
as if you weren’t these ten years dead.

As I read a guide to pressing flowers,
it was an odd thing to hear young birds sing
through the afternoon hours of the buried dead.

PAD 2014 #21: Back to the Basics

My first attempt at a sestina. I wanted to play with words that rhyme so I started the first stanza with AABBCC, knowing that the rhyme scheme would change from stanza to stanza, sometimes falling apart all together. I like the way some of it sounds, and I might try it again sometime.

The Summer Forecast

I live in a land of short trees,
tinder and kindling growing

wild on the blackland prairie.
The open blasting sky awaits

bottle rocket cigarette butt sparks.
Folks with an uneasy eye on

brown grass and the roadside
fireworks stands say we just

need one good hurricane.
The rocky soil is a doormat for

the chihuahua desert slinking
eastward. Its dragon’s breath wind

stokes the fires when they come.

PAD 2014 #18: Weather

Sonnet for July

With my feet firmly planted in the sand,
the seagulls might mistake me for a tree.
I’ve no idea why that would matter and
anyway, it’s good to be here by the sea.
It won’t be long before the sun goes down,
and one-by-one the stars fill up the sky.
Soon they’ll switch on the bright lights in the town
and then, we’ll see old Cygnus rising high.
When the fireworks begin to sing and pop,
smoky spiders will weave our summer night.
With each held breath, I’ll wish it never stops
until the dark of space is filled with light.
Do I hear mermaids singing each to each?
No. It is your voice calling from the beach.

PAD 2014 #15: Love Poems