from The Next Clause


"I'm leaving you," she said, "for you make me sick." But
of course she didn't say that. She thought the "for"; she admired
its elegant distance, the way it's wedged like an iron strut
between result and cause, the way it's almost "far," and dire

as a raised eyebrow. She liked the way it sounds like speaking
through a cardboard paper towel tube, using it for a megaphone:
not loud, but strong, all those compacted years shoving
out the other end, as if she were certain she wanted to be alone.


The first four bars of Beethoven's sixth, the Pastorale,
repeat and repeat, always with variation: or, and or,
something to violate expectations, not fully antiphonal,
only an oar dipped into the measure to make an interior

swirl, pulling the craft slightly to the side, yet ahead,
still: little cupped trails alongside to mark where
the mind turned, questions were asked, and shed,
before moving on, nothing that can't be repaired.


As a flower sheds petal after petal, as further tests
strip away one after another of the last hopes for a cure,
as a person shakes into the waste bin all her cigarettes
and goes down the street not knowing who she is, the pure

air of saints is achieved by abandonment: Jesus in the garden
alone, cold moon disappearing, Buddha at the morning star,
mind emptied of its snarl of ignorance. Neither to harden
against loss, nor to welcome it. To let it be who you are.
More Poems by Fleda Brown