Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world. ― Andrei Tarkovsky
TONY BREWER is a poet and audio artist from Bloomington, Indiana. He is executive director of the Spoken Word Stage at the 4th Street Art Festival and co-producer of the Writers Guild Spoken Word Series. His books include Hot Type Cold Read, Pity for Sale, and Fragile Batteries. Tony has been offering Poetry On Demand at coffeehouses, museums, cemeteries, churches, bars, and art and music festivals for over a decade, and he is a frequent collaborator with experimental music & field recording ensemble ORTET.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Tony, what poems have you brought for us today?
Curators of a Sort
They rescinded the order to wear gloves
when handling rare books
because they make them
hard to hold
hot & sweaty
the curator’s caress
as filthy as skin
even behind cotton
like a monk
Washing your hands is just as good
Gloves they determined
decrease the ability to feel
& increase risk of rip or drop
We rely on the tactility
& manual dexterity of bare hands
to make us persevere
want to feel the fragile
edges of each other
& lift friable ink from pages
with our own nervous oils
no false security barrier
not butler’s hands
Mickey Mouse minstrel hands
strip the plastic off Grandma’s couch
& let’s get nasty on the doilies
I’m joking now
but librarians do it in stacks
& once the gloves are off
we’ll never wear them again
It has been worse than this.
When we were kids we had real storms.
Snow drifted up to chins.
No wind chills or polar vortices.
Mom got lost in the night
waiting for the dog to pee
and Dad pushed us all downhill
till my sisters learned how to push instead
but we survived.
Arctic explorers hauled sleds over tundra
after they had devoured all the dogs
and our ancestors hunted in seal skin boots
lashed to their feet with walrus sinew.
Even those guys were pansies.
First flakes falling on human feet
burned like reluctant tears.
Volcanic ash? Piece of cake.
But this new white sorcery required fires
and we chased elk into a deep end
and then slept it off like bears.
Only 40 below in Minnesota last night,
no bread or milk for miles around.
You can handle more than that
though it’s worse where we are
and we are given all we can withstand,
often mere inches shamed by box plows
backing up into parking lot Everests.
We once had great nameless storms
and now have weather worse than yours.
But you can drown in an inch of water
and most accidents happen near home.
In half a year when it’s 103
we still won’t feel like going out,
the weather forever too this or too that.
Even too manageable, like temperatures below freezing.
There’s what it is and what it feels like
and if you don’t like it, just wait.
They Always Come Back
parliament of crows in stooped trees
enshrouding the railroad tracks
as graceful plastic bags
tumbleweed the buds
geese in crooked vees
spelled across a valiant sky
honking like lonesome traffic
raptors hunting downtown
mice sunbathing in the unsafe gray
herons peg legged in the campus crick
like canaries ruffling in a coal mine
Two by two mammals emerge
possums ambling across barren streets
with relaxed perma-sneers
rabbits humping openly in the sideyard
as grass worms love around them
all emboldened by our absence
and the suddenly cleaner clearer air
returning for us to admire
is a lie spring spreads like a virus
Dolphins always swim in Venice
coyotes have always dogged
the steps of urban deer
chickadees have always harassed me
with their black-cap complaints
Why this house here?
Why these windows mirroring this sky?
peeping at my window
not asking for a truce
You've been listening to the poetry of Tony Brewer on the Poets Weave. This is Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.