Thursday, December 6, 2012, at 7:00 pm, poets Deborah Brown and Abbot Cutler will continue the sixth season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)
Deborah Brown’s book of poems, Walking the Dog’s Shadow, was the 2010 winner of the A. J. Poulin Jr. Award from BOA Editions, and the winner of the 2011 New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry. Brown is a translator, with Richard Jackson and Susan Thomas of Last Voyage: Selected Poems of Giovanni Pascoli (Red Hen Press, 2010) and an editor, with Maxine Kumin and Annie Finch, of Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2005) Her poems have appeared in Margie, Rattle, The Alaska Quarterly, Stand, Mississippi Review, and others. Brown is a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester where she won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband George Brown and four cats.
Abbot Cutler is the author of 1843 Rebecca 1847 (Rowan Tree Press, 1982) and The Dog Isn’t Going Anywhere (Mad River Press, 2001), and his poems have appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Ploughshares and Orion Magazine. He received a B.A. from Harvard University, and then an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College following stints in the Peace Corps, which he spent in Malaysia, and teaching junior high school in Brooklyn, NY. He just retired from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, where he taught for over thirty years. He is a member of Slate Roof Press, a poetry collective in Franklin County, and lives in Ashfield, MA, with his wife, the photographer, Sarah Holbrook.
WALKING THE DOG’S SHADOW / Deborah Brown
It’s best to walk a shadow till he pants,
to let him roam a bit under the hemlocks
while you ponder the shade of boulders.
It’s best to let grief enter you like this,
alone with your own black dog,
a drag on anyone’s leash
along the logging road to the lake,
past loggers’ landings and a clear cut,
across the brook’s collapsing plank bridge,
past the neighbor’s garden shrouded in plastic,
past no trespassing signs, a dried up vernal pool,
crisscrossed by trunks
of grieving oaks. Every night, eager as a pup,
this shadow leads you into the woods
and shows you how well it heels
at your side, this old black dog of grief.
WHAT HAPPENS / Abbot Cutler
is that the air is full of words and phrases no one
believes. Caverns and crevices groan open.
Small creatures tumble along the canyon floor
trying to get out of the way. The heart of the great
whale bursts onto dry sand at the sound waves
of the shiny machines coursing the oceans. The black
dog whimpers in the heat. We speak in whispers
in the hope they will lean closer, climb down,
climb down. But,
they are walking faster, they are climbing in
and out of black cars, they are having microphones
attached, they are brushing off any small insects
that land on them and never looking
where they step. They are gazing at the monitors,
looking to the sensors, the earphones, the memory chips.
If their eyes would turn toward us … and what
of the heart, the warm heart in its dark cave?
It’s right here in this box which the huntsman
brings into the vast hall, the glass and cement,
the echoing footsteps, the temple of figures.
He has the heart in a box and opens it
for the black queen, for the senators and congressmen.
They take pictures of it. Maybe one of them
will put a picture up on his refrigerator,
the heart of the beast far from the haven
where the maiden spins out her innocence
in pure threads. Maybe he will look at it
every day and learn to say what it says.
Praise the heart of the beast, lift it up
and the distances will begin to lessen,
lift it up and the little snails will continue
on their slow shiny trails, lift it up
and a million tiny creatures will glisten
in a cold Pacific cove, lift it up
and maybe it will be possible to begin to say
something that you believe in.