Writer in the Closet

Closet
I have noisy neighbors. That won’t surprise anyone who has ever lived in an apartment. There’s always that neighbor who doesn’t believe they’re noisy. Or just doesn’t care.

Quiet isn’t always available to writers who need it. Here’s how Robert Bly described the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.

“Rilke had begun a way of living that later — except for visits to castles or the apartments of the rich — became typical for him: a city, not much money, one respectable suit, a small room, often on a noisy street because it takes money to purchase silence….”

Unlike Rilke, I was able to purchase silence via noise-reducing headphones. While a little uncomfortable, they cancel out most sound.

When I inherited a small wooden desk, I found another way to effectively achieve quiet: I put it in one of my walk-in closets. There’s a decent ceiling light, and the door shuts.

It’s a little strange, but it blocks out distracting sound.

“Und warum trifft es immer mich?” Rilke asked: “And why am I always the one who hears it?”

Copyright 2017 by Brian Dean Powers

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Can You Say It in Just Two Lines?

Blake Manuscript
When I first started writing poetry seriously, it took years to learn how to make longer poems with fully developed ideas. Lately I’ve been interested in the opposite challenge: how much can a poet pack into a couplet?

Here are some examples, some of which you will probably recognize. I’m also posting one of my own.

Richard Wilbur included this work in his collection, Mayflies. Although the poem was published in the 21st century, it’s written in rhyming iambic pentameter.

     A Short History

     Corn planted us; tamed cattle made us tame.
     Thence hut and citadel and kingdom came.

This example by Mark Doty is from his book, School of the Arts.

     Shahid’s Couplet

     Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleeker: sugar, dates, black tea.
     Your house, then ours. Anyone’s now. Memory’s furious land.

Walt Whitman put this little poem in the 1871 edition of Leaves of Grass.

     The Untold Want

     The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
     Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

This famous poem by Ezra Pound was written in 1912.

     In a Station of the Metro

     The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
     Petals on a wet, black bough.

This tiny poem with the enormous title appears in Mary Oliver’s Redbird.

     Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to 
     Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

     That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
     But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

This is my first attempt at a two-liner.

     [Broken] [Shine]

     I don’t know who broke my bedroom window.
     Sunlight blazes the long edge of cracked glass.

So what do you think? Do these poems feel satisfying, or do you want more? Is it fair to say this brief form sometimes requires a good title in order to succeed?

Listening to Cicadas

Tree in Sun

August already: time to see summer
before it sinks. Beneath bountiful branches

I stand and watch the sunlight soak
through green and breathing leaves. All 

around, like fog in the trees, alarm clocks
ring beneath male cicada wings. And look: 

a current of slick, black ants flows
down the dark drive. Sometimes

I stop to hear the waterfall gushing 
from my window fan, and sometimes

I want to pour it all into words,
lingering to love what can’t be kept.

Copyright 2000 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the 2002 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Orion’s Belt

Orion Constellation

They seem together
from where I stand:
three stars, a row

on a flat, black sky.
My guide book tells me otherwise—
they are light-years apart,

deep, deeper, deepest
into the dark.
I marvel at the stars,

how they burn like beacons
on distant, unreachable shores,
how the isolation

doesn’t diminish the shine.
I studied their names
when I was a boy,

stared at them
from my bedroom window
in a middle-class home

that must have looked fine—
station wagon in the garage,
closets of ironed pants and shirts,

the threesome eating dinner
in a spotless kitchen.
But there were light-years

between our plates, cold space
between our seats in the car.
There was no guide

for that constellation.
So I learned distance.
I drifted away.

Copyright 2005 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain

Van Gogh’s Bedroom

Bedroom

The artist returned to the Yellow House in Arles
after painting all day in the fields. Nature
stuck to him like a burr as he walked into his bedroom.
Pale-blue sky seeped into his walls, and the outstretched
wings of crows slipped into the window’s
dark sash-bars. Sunflowers settled
into the center-woven seats of the ocher chairs,
blossoming over the worn path of earth-hued floorboards.
A field of poppies managed to inhabit his red blanket,
but not even nature could make the room contain
the artist’s seismic swirls of moon and stars. 

Copyright 2016 by Brian Dean Powers
Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain