Saturday 25 June 2022

Five Poems by Ed Brickell




Even near the weary turn of the last skeptical century, 

An old Welshman claimed his father had slain draig-talamh

The earth dragons. He swore he had seen them in his youth: 

Scales crusty with jewels, crests flaring in rainbows. 

When disturbed, he said, they slid away to hide - 

Seeking dark tumuli reeking of earth and damp, 

Sowed with the sacred weapons of men. 


Still coiled deep in that muck, a dying claw curls 

Around a naked thing that snuffles and squirms, 

Veined skin shiny, thin as tissue: 

That delicate treasure, the old Welshman's belief. 

Tiny lungs suck rot and mould, pink stubs paw weakly in mire. 


Someone expecting anything must dig fast through that grit, 

Be brave enough to tell what they never saw. 



Ol’ Angry River 


Suck me down, ol’ Angry River, 

Grind my weary bones to goo, 

Flay my nightmares from the marrow, 

This life fleets like a fleeting arrow. 


Burnin’ store-bought firewood 

In the middle of the store, 

Angry River, I can’t make a good man see the bad 

In a woman who won’t make a sad man understand. 


Your fish are biting, Angry River, 

I can feel them at my throat. 

O werewolf moon burning out of season 

By your bonfired shores, beyond all reason. 


If you can’t tell the truth about a lie 

Then never mind what I just said. 

Angry River gurgles rent-free in my head, 

Leads its water to ev’ry horse, makes them drink. 


Float your poisoned garbage out to sea, 

Cleanse yourself with thunder rain. 

Lift up your flood disaster karma,  

Teach us your drowning devil dharma. 





Sometimes it takes a beach to remind me 

Of how the world repeats itself: 

On warm sand walking from sun to moon, 

Scenery repeating like a cheap cartoon. 

But the overwhelming ocean reminds me  

Of the cinderblock pool, burning with chlorine, 

Where I learned to be afraid of swimming, 

The kind of fear that swirls in your soul for life, 

So much water to be afraid of, so many years. 

I look out across dark churn to earth’s edge, 

Thinking, I do not belong here, no one belongs here, 

This is not our place, this endless watery place, 

The beach, an uneasy armistice  

I am signing in the sand with my toes as I walk, 

The waves creeping closer, 

Warning me to hush, hush, hush. 



Big Storm 


The dark in the west is deep -  

A rogue chunk of night  

Drifting like an iceberg. 

The breeze, spiced with damp earth. 

Wind chimes blunder into each other. 

Thunder roots in the edges. 


Close behind this Gotterdammerung 

The sky turns a page of blue - 

A disappointing novel, 

Read in a single glance. 



Ash Thursday 


A rooster crows, a baby cries. Enter chorus. 


Theirs was a sadness that had to wait. 

We did not see the calendar, but we could feel the days, 

Smearing grey ash across the broad bone of our foreheads. 

How many shadows did not belong to someone? 

They seemed beyond counting, a refugee darkness, 

So close no tear could drip between them, 

And still we wept like cows lowing. 

We cannot recall the first grief that made our heads bow, 

We cannot recall the dates of the deaths,  

What each blurred face did for a living, who they loved, 

The madness that jerked in their heads before the peace, 

The ancestral karma they bore like smoking coals. 

Theirs was a sadness that had to wait, 

And it died in that waiting, and, numb as we were, 

We mourned that late sadness too.

Ed Brickell is a Soto Zen practitioner living in Dallas, Texas. His poems have appeared or will appear soon in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Copperfield Review, Beatnik Cowboy, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.


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