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Prairie Schooner 78.1 (2004) 170-173

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Three Poems

Michael Brosnan


I meant to say that I did go to Midnight Mass that Easter
and sang in the choir, hitting the harmonic notes precisely-
the voices of archangels, the choirmaster said.

Later on, I meant to say I did not kiss that woman.
My marriage vows are my guiding light.

I meant also to say that I do have the confidence
to be a professional golfer and/or a classical musician.
I've got the hands for both, and the heart.
I simply chose another course in life.

Chose it.

I've read every important book of childhood,
honored the teachings of the nuns.
And I was far too preoccupied with studying this world
to bully anyone or break anyone's heart.

Where it says my father and I had a strained relationship,
read, "He searched out the company of his dad
to learn the secret of cooking good lamb stew."

I did stick that chisel into my thumb,
but I did not leap and curse and blame
a small boy for distracting my attention
with all his annoying little questions. [End Page 170]
Look, there is much that was printed in error;
it would take more time than I have to correct it all.
I'm going to have to let the rest go.

In general the story is true,
and I trust you to know when I've acted in character,
and when I have not. The other stuff-
it's born of the haste of the modern world.
It's the hurrying that ruins things.
The wanting too much.


One might prefer a fine salad of myrtle warble,
but here we are.

You've plucked the blue-black feathers
and now with a small serrated knife sheer

off beak and sharp slivers of crescent moon claws.
You've got the bird pinned with your left hand

and I can see you're afraid of crushing its skull.
The rice is steaming.

Remember how we met, my love,
and all the meals since over which we faced only each other?

You can count the twenty most popular human emotions-
and we have eaten in their honor, just the two of us, [End Page 171]
one of us talking and the other eating politely,
or together in silence

except for the occasional sound
of sucking on small bones.

Ping-Pong with Pliny

I find myself standing across a ping-pong table
from Pliny the Elder. I recognize my advantage immediately.

I've got rubber-soled sneakers, Nikes. He's got
worn, slick leather sandals rubbing his ankles raw.

I've got a T-shirt and sweatpants.
He's got, I don't know what, a tunic with lots of folds

and a stiff collar and cuffs and jingly things
that would weigh down a horse.

Most of all, I know the game;
he doesn't.
It was weeks after, when reading his Natural History, Vol. 8,
that I found a reference to that night,

a dream he said he had of the future-
a pale-faced race of men-like creatures with whip-like arms, [End Page 172]

with small tufts of hair and lizard quickness - unnerving
in the suggested violence of their bemused smiles.

It's possible, he writes, this is a vision of mankind to come,
or perhaps, one hopes, a bad dream devoid of meaning.

It's possible this creature's of an extraterrestrial nature,
or of the underworld, having worked its way

across that river of sleep and up through the deep-running tunnels
we all believe must exist in the mountain forests.

These peculiar beasts, he says finally, they can't be purely
of our imagination anymore than God can (he's talking about

me and you now - and the forest dwellers who chirp and run swiftly
on feet pointed backwards, and the single-legged race of people

who hop about, humming softly, and sleep on their backs
with their one precious limb lifted skyward).

Michael Brosnan is the editor of Independent School Magazine...


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pp. 170-173
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