Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Beauty of Marriage

The Beauty of Marriage
Elyse Brownell

People often ask if I feel different
now
I weigh my body on his scale
yes. I say. but only in crowds

Remember when you first turned
the age of your end point?
and someone once asked you
if you felt different?

it’s not like that at all

It's like this:

While standing in Arizona
I loved him in Utah
he loved like the first time in Colorado

There is a shift now
as if my organs lifted up,
traded spots, my heart now my liver
I drink it full

The list of exes doesn’t seem to matter
the skin between the gap
doesn’t seem to matter
I am only his to scale

(Don’t write me into
a feminist snarl)

it’s okay to love
it’s okay to give your body away
it’s okay to forget about the first person
you ever loved

There will always be other pebbles
to collect inside
some heavier than others
some weightless, like driftwood
left on another shore

and you will want to turn them over
find out what the other side was
rotate to see what may be exposed

and you will want to
fall asleep next to them
one more time
touch the fracture you each created
one more time

and you may still want to
skip them across the flattened pond
a rupture of the flat line
he left you on

but all that matters
is the weight of my husband 
on the other side
of the bed

mine to scale.



 *inspired by Anne Carson's "The Beauty of the Husband"




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pre-Order Elyse Brownell's new book Sinkhole

Elyse Brownell's new book Sinkhole won the 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest by Monkey Puzzle Press.  The book is now available for pre-order here.

SEE A PREVIEW

Here's what's being said about Sinkhole:

"Elyse Brownell's Sinkhole is a poem-study of loss and the holes that define it (and us, more than we might like to admit). The poem moves in branching directions simultaneously and feels its way as present becomes past and remains an ache of absence in the next present. As the poem looks further into these holes, time opens, and the assumption that 'there is a bottom to memory' becomes questionable."

— Reed Bye, author of Catching On



"Sinkhole is a brilliant, lyrical, evocative exploration of the pain and loss trapped inside the sinkholes of every relationship. Elyse Brownell fearlessly furrows into those holes in search of a missing friend/partner/lover, the ‘you’ of the poems, but the bottom keeps falling away as one absence leads inevitably to another. Sinkhole is a profoundly ambiguous and lyrically haunting journey into the unknown."

— Bob Mayberry, Associate Professor, English, California State University Channel Islands



"There is a kind of writing or writer that is about living on the edge of what wants to be written: without reserve. Elyse Brownell went to the perimeter or brink of a sinkhole, for example, and lay down. What happens when you touch the inside of something that has no outside? How do you return? Jack Kerouac would have loved this book, I think. I did. It is a book from the heart, for you—and anyone else who wants to live wildly and all at once."

— Bhanu Kapil, author of Ban en Banlieue and Schizophrene



"Sinkhole is a beautifully concise poetic meditation on our modern condition, on news of sinkholes under our houses and on the ‘holes’ between us and through us. Elyse Brownell writes with wit and tenderness, integrating quotes from CNN and ABC News and from science, and finding poignant significance in how we try to connect with each other and make meaning. The opening epigraph, ‘it started in the bedroom, like so many things do,’ shows her underlying humor and psychology. These are imagistic untitled poems that accumulate by the short volume’s end to mean much more than the sum of the parts. We can try to ‘talk louder’ and scare away what frightens us, but Brownell walks to look right at our losses—singing them, mourning them, and celebrating them. I love this poetic debut and recommend it highly."

— Patricia Clark, author of Sunday Rising


Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Crows' Wedding Vows

Chris and Elyse got married on October 11, 2014 in Lyons, CO.  Below are their vows as read and shared with their friends and family at Stone Mountain Lodge & Cabins.  These vows were written separately over the course of their lives.


Chris' vows to Elyse

Dearest Elyse, I promise to sing you love’s sweet song; promise to honor your spirit, to never take you for granted, so now whisper to me promise of time past eternity, where we can sleep from now until then—head touching head hearts beat as one, holding hands in slumbered sleep still.

Raindrops falling from leaves to forest floor, a river’s flow across rocks, across the leavings of a life lived full—past carried in body becomes present, becomes now; becomes forever: today is the first day of my life, this simple life. So glad I didn't die before I met you.

Sing to me, lover, sing to me love’s sweet song:
Under eternity; under eternity; under e-ter-ni-ty . . .

A freight chain rolls through dark aspen valley, KC whistle moans, counterpoint to the yip of coyotes hidden in trees while you dream. A beer to start, tears in our eyes. Spoon on rock under yawning night sky, your wing in mine, crow, and tootled roses before the reveal. I promise you more mountains to climb, promise to fly with you, crow, to that grove and whisper quaking aspen golden secrets in October twilight, to sing you songs of waters always receding after the deluge:

The tune that is yours and mine to play upon this earth
We’ll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth
What’s lost is lost, we can’t regain what went down in the flood
But happiness to me is you and I love you more than blood

Sing to me, lover, sing to me love’s sweet song:
As the bear sleeps, and Rumi yawls in the night the poetry of our dreams. You made me promise to not wait another lifetime to find you. That promise kept, I make another: I will never let you go; won’t leave you searching under pale sky, won’t leave you lonely for the rest of our lifetimes together. Divine wisdom decreed of us lovers of each other, just as amber attracts straw. There written in blood: you, born to be my bride.

I promise my love for you is real
Moves like this autumn breeze
I promise my love for you is strong
Lord, it brings me to my knees

Sing to me, Elyse, sing to me love’s sweet song:

Think of birds I kept . . . birds I set free . . . along the winding road of my life and I am struck, because all winding roads led me here. Thought all my wanderings were one barbaric yawp into a silent void, but I was wrong. Along the way I found a life of words, found a daughter calls me daddy; found my wolf watches over me at night. And out there on that old road the void sounded back: Fly home, crow, you whispered, and so I winged, made it back home: to you: the love of my life: my lovely Elyse: my Babi. You are the only one.

I promise to watch over you, to be your sentry when you are most vulnerable, when you bleed over the typewriter and pour phrase upon the page. I promise you words when you need them; I’ll promise silence when you don’t. Above all else, I promise to continue to do those things done since I set eyes upon thee: to make you laugh and sometimes to cry; to hold your hand; to dry your eyes; to be your best friend.

Sing to me, wife, sing to me love’s sweet song:
Under eternity; under eternity; under e-ter-ni-ty . . .

And now we hold the bonds of blessed union before those who would witness, them two crows about to become one. But really two crows have always been three, so take my hand with Delia between, your new family waits. Here I surrender you my heart; now I faithfully place it in your hands under eternity. Feel it beat, lover? It beats now in time with yours; it beats now because I love you.

Under eternity . . .


Elyse's vows to Chris:

I have phrases and whole pages memorized
But nothing can be told of love
You must wait until you and I
Are living together.
In the conversation we’ll have
Then…be patient…then.
-Rumi

It might have been you who brought me to Rumi
But it was Rumi that brought me to you.

Chris, You’re the “you” I've been writing to my whole life.  And now I write with you, next to you, from you.  But you mean more to me than my poems.  More than honey to a buzz, more than sunlit mountain peaks, more than the elks bucking after the drought, more than a night sky flooding over, more than a place where bones of life are piled, more than laughter covering all of life’s terrible little holes. 

And though today is the day I literally have walked toward you, I realize it was you I have been walking toward all along.  And now we will walk together, side by side, until we can no longer walk.  And then we will both listen for the caw of the crow and follow her down. 

Some may say we might have met too late in our lives.  Perhaps we’re too far gone, far too tired or hurt to see what we have, to fully appreciate it.  But I say we met at the right time, when we were ready for each other, when I was ready to love this deeply.  Although I can’t deny that sometimes I wish to push time backwards, to have met you sooner, to then be able to love you longer.

I promise to stand by you, laugh with you, cry with you, fight with you, make love truer than poetry with you, never leave you or deceive you and never stop the conversation of us.

You often remind me of a brief moment in time, when we couldn't be together and I told you not to wait another lifetime to find me.  I meant what I said, but with no agenda, no intention, just to let you know that it only took me seconds to realize what a good man you are.  And how I knew, we were meant to find each other in this lifetime.  And we have.  

When I am with you, I am a better person, a better lover, writer, friend, mother, daughter, sister, auntie, I am the best version of myself.  And your daughter – our doodle, Delia –though not mine, I know a part of her comes from me, and a part of me comes from her.  I am forever changed and always changing and growing because of her.  My love sprouted roots deeper than I could have ever planted alone allowing us to become partners, to become a family, to become us.

Today I choose you, and tomorrow I will choose you again, and every day thereafter.  Chris, I will love you forever.  And if there is eternity, I’ll love you there again.  You are my best friend, the love of my life, my collaborator, my other half. 

I promise to hold onto you for as long as my body will let me, for as long as time ends and starts again, until my fingers are dust and my soul turns to water.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Elyse Brownell Wins Poetry Chapbook Contest

We Two Crows are happy to announce that Elyse Brownell has won the 2014 Monkey Puzzle Press Poetry Chapbook contest for her collection, Sinkhole.  In addition to her first place winnings, Brownell's book is now forthcoming from the amazing editors at Monkey Puzzle.  Be on the lookout for this amazing new work.
Check out the Monkey Puzzle Press website for the exciting details!





Friday, June 27, 2014

A Love Letter

A Love Letter
Christopher Shugrue

February 1, 2014
Boulder, CO
I think of Neal Cassady.  What if Jack had never met you?  Would he have written On the Road?  Would Jack have taken to that ol’ road at all without your letters to spur him on?  What if you had not been there to be his muse?  Would Visions of Cody still be dangling in the firmament, waiting on another time, another space to be born?  What of Allen—who he without his cocksman of Denver?  Would his howl still shake city walls?  And if no Jack on the road, would there be a school named after the man whose words you so inspired?  Probably not and maybe good for them there on the Arapahoe:  then they wouldn’t have to hide from the lineage made them famous.   Hello Jack Kerouac School:  why do you deny your lineage? Embrace your story and remember:  it’s all about the writing.  Oh Naropa:  Now that I am gone, will you deny my name when my words get out?  Will you deny me because I am not “other” and not worthy of a voice?  Oh JKS:  there is more to this world than feminism and queer theory.  Such worthy voices, yes, so please let them sing, but why limit yourself to just those sweet tunes?  Embrace Jack and Neal and Allen and for fucks sake:  teach a class on Anne Waldman’s poetry:  in this great future, you can’t forget your past; you can’t deny your present.  And when you’re done reconciling your demons, let’s hit that mad road together . . .

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bouldering Poets: Tomorrow!

Two Crows is happy to announce:  Tomorrow! Bouldering Poets celebrates its Two Year Anniversary. Come show your support at Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boulder. The event is FREE and welcomes ALL AGES.  The event features Alan Mudd, Teacup Gorilla, and Two Crows' own Christopher Shugrue. Bring CA$H as books from the features will be available.  And after the features hit the stage, don't forget about the world famous Open Mic.  Bring your poems, bring your barbaric yawps, bring your selves!

Two Crows is also excited that this event will double as the release party for Christopher Shugrue's new book, Straw Writes (Monkey Puzzle Press, 2014).

Come on out and support local writers, performers, and musicians!  See you there!   






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monster

Monster
Day 27

Elyse Brownell

If there was a way to come back
and stretch my body beneath this heavy light
I would do so until the rain subsides
and the flooding is over
and you are standing in your papery canoe,
afloat.

Lover, when you hold my hand
I am no longer in my own body
but rather, opening wide enough to
envelop the sea, to envelop the land
to take everything.

It isn't what we are it’s what we were:
the transference of energy asleep on
the shoreline, the movement of landscapes
beneath the sacred heaving of skin,
pushed aside, another hole to fall into.

I will find you again, if but only to
touch the silky vane, if but only to
remember what it was like
when our bodies were our own,
when the separation of atoms was something

tangible.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Straw Writes Unveiled



We at Two Crows are proud to announce the release of Christopher Shugrue's new prose chapbook:  Straw Writes!!  The book was published by the great people at Monkey Puzzle Press and is now available for purchase here


You can also read an interview with the author about the work here.  Get your copy today and enjoy!

Praise for Straw Writes

Straw Writes is nothing short of astonishing. The ghosts of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg weave through the text, and Christopher Shugrue ably shows himself to be one of their literary heirs.



Christopher. P. Shugrue is an incredible person.  Have you heard him read?  Try.  It's an altering and intense experience.  To read his work, yourself, is to enter into a space that is shattering something, always.  And finding a way back.  In this sensitive and brave first book, Shugrue works hard to make sense of the materials of war, and of the time that follows it.  He considers the memory that a person might build -- and loop -- in civilian life.  The life where you get to love someone and follow them a little bit of the way.  He is not afraid to write into the madness.  What it means to go and not, always, return.  I am honored to write in support of this generous writer who is -- as they say -- the real thing.  I never knew what that actually meant until I encountered Chris himself, as I hope you will one day.

-- Bhanu Kapil, author of Schizophrene


World on fire, ghost winds, naked children in the American night, as a Whitmanic and Ginsbergian ethos permeates the battleground of a Fallujah nightmare.  This is the scape of Straw Writes, a hybrid text of conviction and urgency.

--AnneWaldman, author of Gossamurmur

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Poem Written As a Patent Application: First Attempt

An EXCERPT from A METHOD AND APPARATUS OF ARRIVAL AND/OR DEPARTURE
Elyse Brownell

FIELD
The presented poem is broadly directed toward what it means to arrive and what it means to depart, as well as the steps and materials needed to leave. Such a system will prevent entrapment, loneliness, and other mental conditions.

ABSTRACT
Presented is one method and apparatus of arrival and/or departure having an aperture of the space-time continuum for the sake of travelling from one location to another location.  Specifically, what are the steps needed to take in order to come to the decision to leave one location, to depart, and to arrive in another location, to arrive.  Furthermore, what is contained in the decision to leave said location, i.e., the heart, a hollow muscle or organ that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels, among other methods.  Further, further, this one method of arrival and/or departure is one that could not be ignored, avoided, or prevented.
BACKGROUND
There is that check-in that you must procure.  Which, if you think about it, you’re just reconfirming the confirmation you’ve already made and if you’re not “checking” bags but rather carrying them on your persons, then what is the point of the check-in?  To Check-In: the process whereby a person announces their arrival.  Airport: I am arriving.  What it means to arrive. To carry your body across point A to arrive at point B. With arrival comes the departure, the departure of body, waiting, sitting still, crossing lands and oceans.  Fall asleep in one state wake up in another. Insomnia. I am body awake beneath this dream. Lover, I am awake beneath this realm holding your hand in another state. When we arrived we departed.  When we departed we arrived. 


The following listing of claims will replace all prior versions/listings of claims in the above-captioned poem: 

What is Claimed:

1.  A decision to leave, comprising:
                a reason, consisting of:
                                i) a need to see a person whom you have not seen in a long time, said time greater than or directly equal to six months, said months comprising the Gregorian calendar of months; and
                                ii) a want, a feeling you cannot contain, like sunlight in a glass jar, like, holding a hand a little longer, a little softer, said hand relative to the person whom you have not seen in a long time, said time greater than or directly equal to six months, said months comprising the Gregorian calendar of months;
                monetary value greater than or equal to the cost of your heart, comprising:
                                i) a hollow muscle or organ that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels, relative to cardiac, relative to emotion, directly comprising:
                                                collections of de-oxygenated blood;
                                                a mesh work of cardiac muscle cells; and
                                                love: a variety of feelings, states, and attitudes.
2.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein a circumstance does not prevent a person from making said decision.
3.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein the need is not in direct contact with selfish reasons to arrive at said decision.
4.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein the want cannot be avoided at any cost, wherein the sunlight in a glass jar is a metaphor but the holding of a hand is literal.
5.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein the monetary value is on a scale of USD and heart strings, of which are equivalent to the relation of the amount of heart strings that will deteriorate if a person does not make the decision to leave.
6.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein the heart remains inside the chest of the person who has made the decision to leave.
7.  The assembly of claim 6, wherein the chest of the person who has made the decision to leave, is located on said persons.
8.  The assembly of claim 1, wherein the composition of said heart is only an opinion made by the person who has made the decision to leave.
9.  A method and apparatus of arrival, comprising:
                an aircraft assembly unit containing passenger seats for said person who has made the decision to leave; and/or
                a motor vehicle containing a seat for said person who has made the decision to leave;
                fuel;  
                monetary value greater than or equal to the cost of your heart;
                the desire to arrive, consisting of;
                              i) the act of coming to or reaching a place;
ii) someone or something that has come to a place; and
                                iii) the time when something begins or happens.
10.  The method of claim 9, wherein said aircraft assembly unit abides by the terms required by aviation safety, specifically:
                the theory, investigation, and categorization of flight failures;
                the prevention of such failures through regulation, education, and training;
                various campaigns to inform the public as to the safety of air travel; and
                the passenger who is standing in the row adjusting their carry-ons after the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign, and the passengers have been informed it is no longer safe to move about the cabin, does not exist.
11.  The method of claim 9, wherein said motor vehicle, comprises:
                a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails;
                the vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor;
                is identified within a number of vehicle classes; and
                the operator of said vehicle is either the person who has made the decision to leave or is the person who was convinced by the person who has made the decision to leave either by monetary, sexual, neighborly, and the like, gestures.
12.  The method of claim 9, wherein the type of fuel is the preferred specialized type of petroleum-based fuel used to power an aircraft.
13.  The method of claim 9, wherein the monetary value is on a scale of USD and heart strings, of which are equivalent to the relation of the amount of heart strings that will deteriorate if a person does not make the decision to leave.
14. The method of claim 9, wherein the time when something begins or happens is relative to the location of arrival, directly opposite from the location of departure.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein said location is directly relative to the end result to the decision made by the person to leave.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein said location is directly relative to an infinite number of results to the decision made by the person to leave.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

TWO EVENTS Friday April 4, 2014


Two Events in Boulder
Boulder Arts Week &
NoBo First Friday Art Walk
Friday, April 4, 2014

6:30 & 7:15 
Elyse Brownell & Steve O'Bryan
1740 Linden Avenue

7:45 & 8:30 
Chris Shugrue, Stefka Trusz, and Kathi Sutton
1510 Zamia #102





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

EB's Response to "My Skeleton" by Jane Hirshfield (Poet-to-Poet)

Ode to the Hole-Punch
Elyse Brownell

My hole-punch,
sitting on the mahogany surface
awkward in stature.

Your origins date back to Germany,
1886, designed to “punch holes in paper”
your founder, Frederich Soennecken,
treated you with such care, precision,

after the invention of a paper, Nietzsche
himself wrote to other poets,
declaring the paper’s top quality
to write on

and now, a hole-punch,
created to punch holes
in such paper, to allow
the acco of breath, to suspend

data in portfolios
organization is your primary purpose,
utility, but a design patent is where
you began.

Centuries later, mass-produced
and landing on my desk,
an office tool I rely heavily on:

black ceramic skin, a lever used
to push a bladed cylinder straight
through sheets of paper

through Soennecken’s original thought
creating space for more ideas,
more metal prongs, protruding through bodies,
combining the elements.

Palm flat on your lever,
paper placed between the long silver guides
running through your core

and I press down,
a slow creak from your springs
and you recoil
producing two, perfect circles
placed apart evenly, accurately,
ready for placement

and I wonder:

how many hands have touched you?
paraded you?
relied on you?
complained about you?
forced weight upon you?

only to leave remains of paper
in your belly
a silver sliding door beneath you.

Do you miss each one of them
a mother to their child—

After all, it is you
who created such perfect
round, holes.


In response to "My Skeleton" by Jane Hirshfield




CS' Response to "Fast Break" by Edward Hirsch (Poet-to-Poet)

Fly Free #1 (Sliver of Light)
Chris Shugrue

For Byron Caleb Ligon (1987-2007)

Written while simultaneously reciting Poem 52 of “Song of Myself” and listening to the boys rip through “Fire on the Mountain” in front of the pyramids at Giza, Egypt 1978


You are the spotted hawk my friend—
Swooping in to talk shit when my drive
travels thirty feet; my disc dies horrible death against Douglass Fir—
You smile, ghost, tell me to pick it up, to be mindful of my footwork,
laugh . . . tell me to rip it from my center.
I’m not complaining about your feathers or your presence,
but perhaps sometimes a hawk is just a hawk:
me seeing you in him just imagination overrun by memory.
Because you dead to the core now,
and you're ghost ain't there after all . . . 
just a sliver of light; a trick of the shadow.

Christmas Day, 2007:  “He’s gone,” a voice whispers

First time I saw you:  Sixteen, mouth full of braces:
Disc golf bag hanging from shoulders
couldn't yet carry all the weight of living;
Your smile what caught me off guard, a grin beyond your years,
smile I remember, as I finally attempt words for a brief life well lived.
Yet the prophet sings: statements just seem vain at last, and compared to your loss,
this will never be enough, but I try.

I’m so pissed at you!  Why, bro? You were the golden child

Watched you grow in that place where the discs fly:
Zenith Park, Cloudcroft, New Mexico, dizzy 9,000 feet:
Baskets handmade by the high school shop class.
On this course, through this lovely game called disc golf,
you became my friend, my brother,
watched your golf game go from tame to barbaric to untranslatable
as you filled out your frame,
as you gained the flesh memory required to master this game.
Remember that day when we had the driving contest in the field?
Crushing discs between the quiet summertime skating rink and the outdoor theater?
You jumped forward, pulled back, and let that disc fly . . .
Fluid . . . with devastating power . . . a disc golf poet in motion . . .
Landed 400 feet away: we sounded our yawps from the roof of New Mexico.
I knew in that moment:  you’d be king of the world.

November 2007:  you messaged me to say hi, sent me a photo of your shadow.  I couldn't see it

You had everything my brother:
The world like a perfectly weighted Valkyrie in your hands,
but I hardly knew who you were or what you meant.
And now you’re gone and you gained eternity . . .
which i reckon ain't so bad.
You decided to take to the dirt,
Become the grass, and I will not judge you for your absence.

You are vapor

And years passed still filled w/ regret, a gnawing in my gut:  you reached for me,
but I was gone; 2,000 miles distant; with no hands to lend;
You caught in slow motion as you fall to floor.
No long distance runner there to witness, to cry out:  Fire!  Fire on the mountain!
You slipped through crack in clouds above mountain peaks:
A sliver of light and a smile left in memory,
but ain't that what we all are once we're gone?

You are the dusk 

Fly free beautiful brother,
Fly free:  rip that disc,
make those chains sing!
And as I walk courses among the living,
I carry with me the disc of a ghost,
the Valkyrie your mom let me take from your bag,
when the brotherhood gathered in secret to mourn your loss:
Tears at the bar, Mayhill, NM, and shots of Don Julio,
your disc golf bag between us:  I was afraid to touch it
as the sun shone and the Sacramento Mountain day so beautiful,
I wanted to tell it to fuck off,
To go away and bring me rain and snow,
thunder and lightning, wind to quell a savaged heart,
but we mourned for you in the sunlight and the blue sky mocked us.

You are the runaway sun

I touched your disc and took on the weight of letting you die.
In response, I flitted through crowd gathered around stage:
I mounted it, a ghost covered in snow,
and read poem 52 for you,
still not sure if I did it for you or for me, an attempt to lessen the weight.
Forgive me, brother, I suck at goodbyes;
I couldn't write about you then so Walt had to suffice.

You are my brother

But I have words for you now, and the hawk don’t bother me no more.
But there’s your ghost again on the trail before me?
Or that you ripping a drive with a grunt from cobbled tee box?
Or behind tree deftly lofting a putt sure to land safely in chains?
No:  just a trick of light and of shadow or my old eyes making me fool.
I try to remember who you were while you were here,
try to write your smile in words, only to fail over and over . . .
I chant it again; I have nothing else: fly free, brother, fly free!
And I fail to fetch you, so I’ll search in another times forgotten space
and know you stop somewhere waiting for me . . .
Maybe then we’ll write a poem together about life lived as sliver of light.


In Response to:

"Fast Break"
Edward Hirsch


Monday, March 24, 2014

EB's Response to "Fast Break" by Edward Hirsch (Poet-to-Poet)

Four Square
Elyse Brownell

For Jadee (1983-2011)

She hit the ball out of turn,
sending it past the boundaries of the chalk drawn lines,

she was out, and Melinda was up next,
making her wide stance known, her large hands hanging

at her side, I spun the rubber skin on the tip of my finger,
called out the rules: “no returns” I said, pointing to Beth,

who is the smaller of the four of us, with less hand-eye coordination,
with a fear of Melinda’s hands, with a fear of returning the ball,

beyond the lines, a falling of hands pushing the ball began,
back and forth, one bounce in square one,

another in square three, and onto Melinda, in square four,
in the upper right-hand corner, fully intentional, fully knowing

she is left-handed, she reaches out across the line and taps
the ball to square one, where I am standing, I lunge forward

to prevent the second bounce in my square, but miss
causing the ball to roll off of Beth’s foot and tumble

into the brick wall behind us, which responds
back to the rubber ball, and sends it out across the street

rolling down the hill, jumping up from hitting rocks,
and the tires of the cars lining the street,

ending in a gutter near the stop sign and wobbling into
the dip, until Beth retrieves it,

“Nice one, Liz,” Melinda’s hands say,
I exit the squares to take my place at the back of the line,

“you’re out,” she insists, just as Beth
returns with the ball, dribbling it a few times with

a new sense of confidence since before she left
to retrieve the ball, “I’m in square one, now” Beth announces,

Jeremy jumps into square four, and I stand off to the side,
“black jack” Beth says, “you can’t do that” Melinda says,

“watch me,” Beth says, and calls “game on” before bouncing the
ball to Jeremy in square four, who sends it to Cheryl in square two,

back to Beth, who twists her hands to throw off Melinda,
in square three, but Melinda sends it back to Beth, who catches it,

the sound of the ball in Beth’s hands echoes against the brick wall
silence falls over every mouth in line, waiting their turn to beat Melinda,

“black jack,” Beth smirks, “no way!” Melinda cries,
“sorry, those are the rules, I called it,” the rest of the kids

standing in line ahead of me cheer, as Mega Melinda has been defeated,
but this time she seems smaller, her back hunched over as

she crosses the boundaries outside of the game, I watch her
kick a pebble into the grass as her head hangs low, her hands

in her pocket, I feel a pull toward her and place my hand on her shoulder
“it’s okay, Melinda, it’s just a game,” she looks up from the ground

shifting her focus onto me, she begins to cry, and hugs me,
our bodies pressed into each other, not realizing the ball

is rolling around us, has stopped against my heel, and stays there,
as time stands still and I am left with the news of her death

fifteen years later, trying to recall a single memory that occurred
after four square, like our prom, or sitting in her room

surrounded by posters of boy bands, declaring which of the five men
were our boyfriends, thinking, at the time, that no other moment could possibly

be worse than finding out that one of the boy band members has a girlfriend,
or nothing could possibly get any better than finding out that the yellow-haired boy

that sits in front of you in math class, thinks about you too,
but all I can recall is the sound of the ball on the concrete that day

the way she hugged me, and stopped being Mega Melinda,
but rather a friend, a teammate, to someday become a wife, a mother, and now,

merely, the dust kicked up by a ball bouncing somewhere, without a sound.



Glimpse
Elyse Brownell

for Jadee

Even now, after thinking about you for days,
I am no closer to finding you.

I stand in a room and summon your memory
but come up empty-handed, left with

carbon copies of your face in photographs
left with a still-frame of us in the basement,

the lower ceilings we resided under,
your father in his recliner with the volume on the TV

too loud, the walls of your bedroom covered with
posters of our favorite bands, your carpet, matted,

stains of make-up, nail polish, and paint chippings,
the threshold to the back room, burgundy concrete floors,

the full-length mirror, the lighting in your bathroom,
the sound of the front door, the smells in the kitchen,

and your bedroom floor, rolling cigarettes,
drinking wine coolers, trying to decipher the day’s problems.

did we ever talk about death (?) after we heard that statistic from
our guidance counselor about the 1 and 4 odds of making it to our ten year reunion.

I wore black that day.
I said your name at least twice.
I wished the red wine

was actually a wine cooler and we were back in the basement
hiding from the outside world, together.

But the room I stand in isn't at all a place where I can ever find you,
even if I hold 1,000 photographs and try to talk to each one,

I can’t hear your laugh in my ear, or the sound of you knuckles
each one cracking louder than the next.

I can only hope that the sound of the heater turning on,
or the blinds against my window sill swaying for no reason,

is the passing of our memories, a passing that can only
be captured by the smallest glimpses of your light;

that’s all anyone is after they’re gone.

In response to:
"Fast Break"
Edward Hirsch