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  • On Suffering, and: The Gulf, and: He Asks the New Owner to Look After His Trees, and: Kandahar, and: The Man With a Bird's Head
  • Brian Brodeur (bio)
  • On Suffering
  • Brian Brodeur (bio)

On NPR this morning, a Tutsi womansays she was five months pregnant

when war broke out, explains how the lastsoldier to rape her refused her plea to shoot, didn't want to wastethe bullet, stabbed her abdomen with his bayonet

and sliced her Achilles tendonsso she could only crawl from the baying strays.

This induced labor, which she tried to stopby squeezing her legs together, then she tried

to hold on to the child in the wet grass.But the dogs, she says, the dogs ate my baby.

There's only silence now in the studio.The woman clears her throat, apologizing—

she doesn't remember what happened next.Except that when the UN soldiers found her

in the fields beyond her village two days laterand she told her story, they accused her

of lying, of exaggerating her pain.Two men, she says, lifted her into a Jeep

and drove her to the clinic, still insistingthat kind of suffering did not exist. [End Page 60]

Brian Brodeur

[inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="02i" baseline-shift="floatLeft"/] "These poems are part of a manuscript in progress titled Natural Causes. In general, the manuscript consists of three types of poems: narratives of extremity, internal or dramatic monologues, and embellished personal lyrics written in a pseudo-meditative mode. I want a reader to be able to sit down with the poems on a subway or in a doctor's office waiting room and take something away from them. I imagine her to be busy, professional, but still open to the pleasures of poetry. To this end, I've tried to assemble poems on multiple themes composed in varying styles, voices, and forms.

"The longest poem here, 'The Gulf,' for example, is based on an event that took place in March 2005, in which a U.S. naval vessel testing high-powered sonar radar equipment caused the deaths of almost seventy dolphins off Marathon, Florida. The shortest poem, 'On Suffering,' references an NPR interview with a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, a story almost too gruesome to believe. This is probably the single most unifying element of the poems: each addresses in some way the subject of how people who endure great losses move on. That these narratives took shape as poems attests to the notion that art, and poetry in particular, can redeem."

Brian Brodeur is the author of Other Latitudes (2008), winner of the University of Akron Press's 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, and So the Night Cannot Go on Without Us (2007), which won the Fall 2006 White Eagle Coffee Store Poetry Chapbook Award. Recent poems and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Gettysburg Review, Many Mountains Moving, Margie and others. Brian also maintains the blog "How a Poem Happens."

  • The Gulf
  • Brian Brodeur (bio)

The lab technician yawns into his mask.It's late. He hasn't eaten since lunch.Changing gloves, he makes a small incisioninto the sternum of carcass twenty-seven,a sharp-toothed dolphin who surfaced too quickly.He slips his hands inside and tries to pullapart her rib cage as gently as he can,applying an instrument like an invertedvise grip, peeling back the layers.From the hard dorsal aorta, the lack of teethin one so young, this cow must've beenthe matriarch who led the addled herdtoo far off course into the vast networkof Key Largo mangrove swampswhere late-night motorboats struck half a dozen.He tells me this as I sit watching him,cupping my palm over my noseagainst the ammonia odor and fish-rot smellhe says will stay with me for a week.This is the part of any salvage missionthat makes him wish he'd never volunteered,when they've saved all the animalsthey can, and only a few postdocs lingerto prove what everyone already knows.He says this...


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