What the Wind Says
Nothing much in early June
before heat excites thermals
that shake the forest crown.
Wind won’t apologize—
disturbing is its business.
It speaks by curling
the edges of the porch,
shearing the window
with its palms, fingering
pine needles, caressing
the surface of water
until drops leap up
The wind loves smoke
and dust and vapor—
anything that shapes
and tosses, so free
to follow its course.
Like children’s dreams,
before they’re taught
what isn’t possible,
the wind is essential
and dangerous. What
brings the healing rains
and soars the eagles
erodes stone, fuels fires
and flattens houses.
Who, who am I
wind asks the hollow rock—
the sleet that belts
the roof answers
and the limb that scratches
the midnight window,
and the morning breeze
that shutters light through maples
and the dreams of children
who too soon forget its song.
“How I write has changed over the years; now I invite an idea, image, or memory to haunt me into existence. Often I find an emptiness that I need to fill with words.”
More poems by Bill Brown:
August heat radiates like ghosts
from the stones in the graveyard.
Graying tobacco barns stare
at the scorched blades of corn.
My grandmother, at forty, sits
in the shade of post oaks
snapping beans with her neighbors.
Leaf whispers in the hot wind
soften talk mummed by drought.
My mother, at forty, holds
my infant sister. She drifts
in a wicker swing with oak shadows
brushing the porch. Late summer heat
can’t douse her pleasure that my father
has come home from the war.
A new child, unplanned, grows inside her.
Something she can’t name aches for fall.
Still curved like a girl, my wife,
at forty, stands on porch steps.
An August breeze burns the tip
of her cigarette like incense.
Her worries reach like a troubled child
toward her mother’s aged cares.
Oak limbs hide the yard from a sere sky.
Fireflies rise from parched grass like
the prayers of sisters far from home.
On a Park Bench in Heaven
On a park bench in heaven
my grandparents sit staring
through all that holiness
which glimmers, they think,
like freezing rain on winter trees.
They were pleased to be here
at first, flattered to be taken
despite all their Sunday plowing.
The pearly gates are just fine
my grandmother says, but
she would trade the lot for a tin of snuff.
My Grandfather would sell
his soul for a pocket watch,
he’s tired of asking every saint
that flies by what time it is.
All this gold and silver remind
them of the dining room
at the Jackson Holiday Inn.
What they really miss is the smell
of honeysuckle or the way
woodland violets circle star trillium
like a wedding quilt in the spring.
We’ve been here twenty years
my grandfather says
and to date, no funerals,
no sick friends, no floods,
no droughts, no nips of sour mash
at the general store
on Saturday afternoons.
And harp music day and night,
not one angel flat-picks
or sings a whiskey tenor.
In the pick up glove
compartment of his heart,
he wonders if hell wasn’t
a little more like Tennessee.
Second week in July and Tennessee cornfields
grow thick with green swords that fence in the wind.
A storm brewing in the Gulf has sent thunderheads
thumbing up the Mississippi and summer drought
is over for a time. Country church steeples spear the sky.
When I was a boy, I wanted to climb
into our church steeple and talk with God.
One Sunday I found the door unlocked
that hid the ladder. I worked my way up slowly,
terrified at my own curiosity. Instead of God, I found a clapperless old bell, a smearing of pigeon droppings and a dead bat, which
I hid in my inside coat pocket to sneak home.
I sat on the family pew next to my mother,
thinking how mortified she would be
to know that I was taking Holy Communion
with a dead bat in my pocket. I swallowed the host
and remembered that it turned into the flesh of Jesus.
To make matters worse, the sermon was on angels.
A presence in my pocket pressed against my chest,
and I felt the bat’s heart beat with mine.
At home, the encyclopedia said Myotis Lucifugus—
little brown bat. In secret, I buried it
in our animal cemetery with a turtle, a rabbit,
and two dogs. I spread its wings out one last time
and asked God to accept the steeple bat.
Fifty years later and I’m still talking to God,
usually when I’m driving alone looking
in the rear view mirror as if He were a child
in the back seat counting red barns.
Today I know that Lucifigus come from Latin—
shunning the light. I think of the bat asleep
in the steeple that pointed toward heaven,
when all along paradise was flying in darkness
over the Forked Deer River, a gut full
of mosquitoes, a gift of summer rain.