Daniel Brown

Newly in College

When an urge came on me very late one night
(For all that it was technically a.m.)
To hit a diner and spend a little time
With a specialty of the house (an omelet
Of a savor like my soul had never known;
The secret being, if some ingredient,
A higher kind of butter, the thinking went)
I realized there wasn’t anyone—
A parent, just for instance—stopping me
From heading out. Released! Not meaning I’d
Exactly been enchained . . . . Or if I had,
Had been about as bent on breaking free
As a caterpillar, munching on a leaf,
Is looking for some flying in its life.


Curriculum Vitae

He gave it barely a glance as I fleshed out
One or another line;
It was me that he was studying,
Until, “All very fine,


“But what we’re really looking for
Is the sort of seller who
Can peddle shit in an envelope.
What makes you think that’s you?”


I don’t recall it word for word,
But the gist of what I said?
That I thought my communication skills
Would stand me in good stead.


Some words that stay in spades with me
Are those he had to say
Before he rose to show me out:
“I’m glad you feel that way.”


In Paradisum

She’d devoted some of the morning
To wrapping up, abed,
Her body’s shutting down;
The rest to being dead.


That afternoon, amid
A gaping herlessness,
I was musing on how, in her starting
As a Christian (a serious


If private one), then adding,
In an effort to take in hand
A midlife slam of chronic
Pain, a Buddhist strand,


She’d come to believe in two
Afterlife alternatives
(Given the alternative).
That’s two more afterlives


Than any with which my credence
Had had a thing to do.
Whereas I had no trouble
Believing W


Was out to mess with me
In airing a Requiem
That evening. Especially


A bit—an “In Paradisum”—
That was pure empyrean:
A lay for solo angel
Complete with driftings in,


At times, of soft caresses

From a chorus swathed in strings;
With a piping up of organ-
Puffs; with heavenings


From, yes, a harp that was un-
Resorted to… No huge
Surprise when, in a plea


A god could be excused
For taking for a prayer,
I plummet into “Please,
Please, please let her be there . . . .”


A sinking of the head,
A welling in the eyes,
A shimmer to the room,
And… Look! In Paradise!


Imaging the ange
Enabled by Fauré
To sing supernally,
She’s floating forth a lay


Herself, and with a lilt
That gladdens to the core;
A voice I’d always loved
A loveliness the more


In being haloed by
An accoutrement of old
That’s issued at the Gate:
A harp of glowing gold—


Its dizzying of strings
So silvery-arrayed—

That helps a heaven be
Before it’s even played.


Her song? A rivulet
Aglitter, if you will;
Its spangles made to seem
To shine the brighter still


By undershadows as
Of matters dwelt upon . . .
Depths it’s difficult
To put one’s finger on . . . .


You know the way, in Bach,
A strand of melody
Will weave within itself
Its own polyphony?


Perhaps her being freed
From anguish has imbued
Her song of jubilance
With one of gratitude . . . .


Excuse me, but what kind
Of realist was I
To carry on like this?
Would you listen to the guy,


Lofting a request
That more than posited
A pretty blissy life
For someone who was dead.


A plea that nonetheless
Could strike the pleader’s ear
As something being cried
To something that could hear.

Daniel Brown's poems have appeared in Poetry, Partisan Review, PN Review, Raritan, Parnassus, The New Criterion and other journals, as well as a number of anthologies including Poetry 180  (ed. Billy Collins) and The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets (ed. David Yezzi). His work has been awarded a Pushcart prize, and his collection Taking the Occasion (Ivan R. Dee, 2008) won the New Criterion Poetry Prize. His latest collection is What More?  (Orchises Press, 2015). Brown's critical books include Subjects in Poetry (LSU Press, 2021) and Why Bach?: An Audio-Visual Appreciation (2017, available at Amazon).

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