Writers' Corner

Nickole Brown

2009 Poetry

Author's Statement

This fellowship offers more than an opportunity to take time to write. It is a promise to myself, signed and sealed, to complete my second book of poems within the next two years. It is the girl within me feeling oddly humbled, stepping into her yellow Cinderella dress and sitting down at the banquet among an exquisite company of writers. It is a sign posted on a long stretch of road that has been tripped with mirages and doubts. The sign is pure and simple; it reads, yes, girl, you got it, this way. It is change, in the pocket and in the mind, the kind of change that means the difference between breathing through a straw versus being let loose on a clear, red kite day. I keep thinking of Marianne Moore, remembering two lines I read of hers long before I was able to believe--Satisfaction is a lowly thing / how pure a thing is joy."


We have heard her tell the story
over and again, like this: an early spring
tornado, a still, yellow sky,
nuns who said must have felt better
going in than it does
coming out as they gave her
a hot compress and dimmed the lights
for pain.

She was half my age now,
barely healed when God smacked
half the trees flat and curled her down
under a mattress
in an empty bathtub
in an empty apartment,
a newborn suckling
the tips of her fingers. The porcelain,
cool as death, was a white womb, an open
drain ready to forget how a month before
she didn't know better

but to sit up and grab the slippery blue
feet first, an impossible breech, a twist
with a snap that meant
leg braces, special shoes, a grown woman
who would never walk right
in red heels. Cramped in this shelter,
she wanted the sweetness of the word

birth but knew better now. Birth
meant forceps, rips, umbilical cords
wrapped around the neck. Birth kneaded
the abdomen for more birth, recovered
with douche singed with a drop or two of Lysol,
boiled a set of glass baby bottles in the same
pot that made the pinto beans. Not much more
to hold and so she touched

the blue leg of her bruised baby, cooed
footling, thinking it sounded
more like the name of some imp
than a complication, footling, her shape-shifter
sleeping inside the cup of a trumpet vine,
footling, because she was so young
and who could blame her, dreaming
away and waiting while wind
plucked off pieces of home,
peeled shingles back from rooftops
one by one.