Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Large Questions, Short Answers

—Poems and Photos by Katy Brown, Davis


Not Urdu.  No.  Not Turkish, Persian, or Hindu.  Not Pashtun.
I’ll try this form in English for something fun to do — not Pashtun.

All the French-forms dazzle and inspire: while
nasally French sparks sultry fire; sadly, not Pashtun.

The Germans growl and swallow parts of odes;
Spaniards count feet with tango-toes.  But not Pashtun.

Italians have the sonnet.  The Welsh are counting — something;
every culture has a gimmick, and they’re on it.  Not Pashtun.

I’ll share a little secret about the cast-in-bronze ghazal:
no one’s really sure how it’s pronounced.  Not even the Pashtun.

(won 1st in Humor category at Berkeley Poets' Contest, 2015)



Under the shadow of which mountain were you born?

In what water did you first swim?

What is the color of your spirit?

Which season of the dogwood do you prefer?

Where were you when the Wolf Moon rose?

Can you name the song of the mourning dove?

Read the map of your hand?

Where do your bees sleep in winter?

When was the last time you ground corn?

How many heartbeats have you wasted?

Have you traveled the high ghostwind?

Whose tears wash the ocean’s shore?

Which stars remember your enigmatic name?

 Freckles and lamb


this proto-syntax; this primary lexicon
with its apparent roots:  mama, nay,
the shy smile; scream of terror—

come to think of it, you may not want
to understand everything
you can put into words, after all

— imagine the simple iamb
of your mother’s heartbeat
this rhythm that quickens

with desire or fear
the heartbeat that surrounded
when you had no words

you might be fooled into thinking this
— this is the common language
but look deeper into the human tree

toward the ocean and the waves
that crawl up from the sea
to the universal codex

in the tide of breath
the seawater of tears
the glowing phosphor of dreams

a low rumble of something large
calling across time to anything
that can understand and answer



(after a photo of storm waves
on the Cornish coast, February, 2014)

Those who saw the waves approach
believed the end of the world had come.
No strangers to heavy seas and perilous storms,
the Cornish fishermen of this coastal village

had ridden their share of giant seas —
had lost friends to waves that
scoured trawlers, then tossed them aside.

But they had never seen such a sea —
had never heard the roar of an angry god;
never prayed through the night

with the endlessly tolling church bells, blown wild
in the wind — prayed with the thunder
of wave after wave smashing over the seawall,
clawing up their shuttered, cobbled streets.



Maureen chose the name
when she chose the man from Nigeria:
her wedding ring,
the gold coin he begged
from a wealthy merchant
the year he completed the Hajj.

Any man who could make that journey
with nothing but the garments he wore
and a wooden bowl
could create love out of the hot wind
and restless starlight
— so she thought.

She wrapped her head
in a pale blue scarf and walked behind him
away from her London home.
She gave away her crucifix,
turned toward the East
and learned another name for god.


(Based on a line from "On the way to
the swimming hole", a poem by Sins Queyras:
“she cannot eat anything that sings.”)

Others say they can’t eat anything with eyes.
They can’t participate in the painful death
of innocent animals.  Just for food.

But she eats everything:
tender baby carrots pulled from dark earth;
unfertilized eggs, collected from free-range hens;
organic chickens and beef.

She thanks the spirits of the food she eats,
even the green things,
for sharing their essence.
She is mindful of the river and the rapids
that every determined salmon runs
before it swims into the net.

Occasionally she is given venison and quail.
She thinks of the grace of deer
and the fussiness of the bird.
She does her best to internalize and honor
the grace, the discrimination, the resilience
the determination that brought life to her food.

For her, food is not merely calories
and amino acids; not just fats and pre-packaged parts.
Her spirit metabolizes the spirits of others.
She honors every sacrifice
because she, too, is part of the sacrifice.
All life sings.
She would devour singing life;
amplify her own song with the spirit of others.


Judy has some little lambs, some bluebirds, and some pups,
some geese and sheep and tracking dogs that keep each other up.

They break the fence and run amok in country roads outside
where they can flee in wild delight — to run and skip and hide.

She’ll chase them to and fro the verge and shoo them back again
where they’ll return with grim resolve to slip the hated pen.

She used to have but one stout gate to keep them all inside.
Now double-gates keep guard for her, but critters won’t abide

with plans to keep them safely home where they are loved and fed.
She’s all worn out and often thinks she’ll let them roam instead;

but Judy loves these little lambs, the bluebirds and the pups,
the geese, the sheep, the tracking dogs — it’s hard to give them up!


Today's LittleNip:


Why did life develop on earth?
Because there was Light.


Our thanks to culinary wizard Katy Brown for today's delicious poems and photos, some of which were taken of Hatch and Taylor Graham's sheep and (below) one of their puppies with Hatch.
Be sure to check Medusa's Facebook page at for more of Katy's photos of Loki's brood—and thanks to the Grahams, as well!


  Hatch and friend