Jonathan Bracker

What We Want Now

Whether we live alone or with another or others,
If we have lived long enough to often feel,
What we want now is to be in family:

Part of three little bears walking on our hind legs
As in a child’s picture book, returning home
Through the forest after our Saturday picnic

In the great meadow starred with Queen Anne’s lace.
Paw in paw, with Mama and Papa who are chatting
About what we we will have for dinner, behind.

Other bear families make up our old village
Which is not at war with neighbors
And never has been.


A Little Bit of Idle Chit-Chat

Because of a break in the cold gray weather
The grocer at the door of his little grocery
Was happy to talk about the sun coming out,
And his wife, who was working with him today,
Asked a customer leaving who paused
Because of her smile, “Seen any rainbows?”

To which the customer, warmed, replied
“Only you, so far.” This pleased.

The two said more. He learned that she,
Comfortably established in her chair
Near the cash register, was from Nicaragua.
“What about your ancestry if I may inquire?,”
She asked. He replied it was German
And Russian (grandparents, whom he had never seen).
She mentioned how Germans had a reputation
For being cold. Colder than Nicaraguans, at least.

He himself had always felt cool, he admitted,
Compared with people from South America.
She understood and said words about
Maybe that could change. He thought it possible.



I have discovered that the mind has neighborhoods.

One which I know quite well by now
Reveals itself each time I clean my cat’s litter box:
I predictably recall how my friend Sammy
Did not clean his pet's box after his wife died;
He was so full of grief and distraction, he just
Could not, and one of his adult children spoke up,
“Hire someone to do it for you. But it must be done,”
And he complied.


Then my mind goes to another neighborhood—
A region in America, distant from Sammy’s:
Wisteria vines and fine tall reaching trees are its identifying marks.
There I reside in a wooden house with a porch swing
In which I sit and think I am better than Sammy
Because I always keep current with my cat’s deposits
And litter-encrusted urine.


Instantly, a third neighborhood appears—a new suburb
With high-rise apartments and almost no wooden
Houses with porch swings. Few people walk its streets.
There, handsome, cute, or impressive autos are curb-parked
Nose-to-butt. That is the neighborhood I find myself in
Immediately after I criticize Sammy.

Jonathan Bracker is the author of eight poetry collections, the latest of which, from Seven Kitchens Press, is Attending Junior High. His Concerning Poetry: Poems About Poetry was published last year by Upper Hand Press. He is the editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems of Christopher Morley (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965), co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley (Twayne Press, 1976), and editor of A Little Patch of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse, (Moving Finger Press, 2013). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, and other periodicals.

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