letter home


missing so many.

Letter Home
Fleda Brown
Grass River is a snake on the tongue.
You, love, a thousand miles down
the map, many turns. Meanwhile,
I am plunging ahead here through
forget-me-nots, marsh marigolds,
Joe Pye weed, and underneath,
the bright fur of mosses,
moss over moss, tangled, unspoken,
this great green marsh bleeding

Speckled trout line up
like knives under the falls; strings
of moss weave and pull, one
hard pull, everything part-
ing, everything in slits, peaks
of reflected light, teeth, laughter.
If you were here, it would be
just the same, only two,
taking on whole the foreign language
of the birds. It would cling
to nothing in us, and we would still
be hungry together, teeth, tongues.

Photo by Lyn C on Unsplash



Fleda Brown
Things must return
from their journey outward –
the frayed ends of hawsers,
bones whitened and lightened,
feathers (bedraggled
is the only word for it, like a dog’s tail
through mud) –
must return from the dolors
to their primary colors.
Humans have a stake in such
things – the eye’s eye
with its three cone receptors,
the mind’s eye that ties
everything up in three dimensions.
Sometimes, though, a small,
fish-shaped, slipping
curve, comes


night swimming


Night Swimming
Fleda Brown
We are without our men, hers dead
ten years, mine far away, the water
glassy warm. My old aunt already stands
half in. All I see of the white half,
her small old breasts like bells,
almost nice as a girl’s. Then we hardly
feel the water, a drag on the nipples,
a brush on the crotch, like making love
blind, only the knives of light
from the opposite shore, the shudders
of our swimming breaking it up.
We let the water get next to us
and into the quick of losses we don’t
have to talk about. We swim out
to where the dock goes blank,
and we are stranded, abandoned good flesh
in a black of glimmering. We each fit
our skin exactly. After a while
we come out of the water slick as eels,
still swimming, straight-backed,
breasts out, up to the porch,
illuminate, sexy as hell, inspired.

getting free


Getting Free
Fleda Brown
My long-dead ex-husband’s wife died this week.
That much I know. What else? She told
no one she was sick, didn’t go to the doctor,
finally collapsed more or less alone
into the Bermuda Triangle of her own wishes.
Why would someone want to disappear before she
disappears? I will never know this, either. Things
feel like my fault, my deliberate lack of attention.
We cast ourselves out of our lives,
there’s a crumbling at the edge of what we know,
a bit of satisfaction, as if we’d left shore with its
factories and smells, and climbed the mast.
Nothing in sight but horizon and fresh air.
We take in a breath, a breath made of elemental
parts of a thousand thousand souls we’ll never
get rid of, that will be reincarnated into innumerable
more life-forms until the sun and Earth die a cold
death a few billion years from now. But that won’t be the end
for those atoms, even the atoms of those
we left with anguish and tears, even those we
turned around in the driveway for, to hear their
pleading to try again. Nearby supernovae will shock
and stir the dusty remnants of the solar system
and new solar systems will form around it.
Some of the atoms will make up the bodies
of newborn life-forms on the new planets.
Many of my own atoms may have been part of
alien organisms that lived on some long-ago-
destroyed planet. I am sad for them,
the ones who live forever, ignored in me,
and the ones who’d longed to get free.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

dock here


Fleda Brown
Say dock, dock: it’s just a hollow
of itself, the way the foot
echoes between wood and water,
the plank, plank of it
like piano keys, growing hollower
farther out under the stars.
Listen to the way dock’s closed in
by the tongue on one side, pushed out
at the far end toward the lake
with a duck-sound, quack-
sound, where they congregate
for crumbs. It’s even a tongue,
itself, saying nothing but
what you bump against it.
Or an arm, reaching out. Here
you’re willing to make yourself sociable,
declare yourself separate
from the trees. “Dock here,”
you offer. Here is a place
to stop. And it’s true. Indeed,
I have to stop at the end,
and think. The reason
for walking out here is
how the end goes blunt.
You feel your blood turn back
toward the heart, but
for an instant, you imagine,
it longs to keep moving out,
like Roadrunner at the edge of a cliff,
keeping on with nothing built
to hold him up. Turning back,
I carve a cul-de-sac in the air, which is a comfort, and a sadness.