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What the Hand Knows

~ for Sandra Harrington

Wednesday, May 13



The open hand holds more.

It feels more of what it touches

and feels better to another’s touch.


   How is the heart any different?


The hand burns much less energy

in releasing, and letting go, than

when grabbing and holding on.


   How is the mind any different?


The hand that waves hello, wipes

tears, and scratches backs, knows

more than the fist will ever know.


   How is the soul any different?



~ for Daniella DeLaRue

Saturday, April 25


To speak of keeping distances,

5,000 miles, plus some, mostly

over a deep ocean, would seem

sufficient to the cause of isolation.


She felt safe, mangos and papayas

grew in the backyard—bananas,

pineapple, coconuts never out

of reach. Toilet paper, plenty.


Local friends, sweet as island

fruit. The temperature, seldom

above 90º, very rarely below 80.

Hibiscus and the Pandanus Palms.


All the shrimp and crab she can eat.

Clownfish and coral, the cuckoos,

and even the occasional flying fox.

It’s life by waves of the South Pacific.


So when the orders came, behind news

of the virus, she had just hours to pack.

Hours to decide what mattered. Socks,

or mangos… blue jeans, or a papaya?

 Who to say goodbye to? How many?

She’d be returning, right? What the

hell… and… whose idea was this?

Always someone in Washington.


And there you have it. It’s back

to Port Arthur, Texas. Where

it will, soon enough, be 110º

beating on the oil refineries.


So, just after liftoff, there was

little to do but cry for the peace

she’d felt in serving the Corps…

and look, for as long as she could,


out the window… and back at…

the Tongan and American flags

fluttering in the hands of friends,

as she whispered… Ofa lahi atu…


                            I love you so much.

All the poems on this page are copyrighted by Nathan Brown and have been published in books by Mezcalita Press, LLC.

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Okay, Boys 

~ for the Wall of Moms

Friday, July 24



After the many things

you’ve already had to stand

and stare down for your children,

a bunch of unmarked federal troops

in camouflage and rental vans

probably don’t scare you.


Moms can see right through

all those helmets and dark glasses

and know exactly what’s behind them.

Just a line of confused sons with guns,

whose mothers are at home wondering

what kind of trouble they’re up to now.


Sons confused by seeing you there…

some as to what their orders are…

all by testosterone and adrenaline.

Whatever it is they’re not sure of,

you appear to be considerably sure

about what it is you’re sure about.


And we are grateful. And in awe.

So lock arms ladies. We need you

now… as much as we always will.

That Is the Question

Thursday, August 20


The word “severe”

is the greater part of what

it means for us to persevere…


to go on living, for some, if not

many, may become a thing

we have to insist upon,


an act of obstination,

since we’ll need more

than a mere persistence.


The faces of frontline workers,

those behind the essential counters,

and the forces of healthcare warriors,


are dealing with degrees of endurance

that make the Tour de France or, say,

volcano surfing look like sandboxes.


To go on loving is often a decision

we have to make. But now, it’s life

asking us: So, what’s it gonna be?

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For the People

~ for Senate Majority Leader McConnell

Friday, October 16


Dear Mitch,

there comes a point

in the life of every senator

when the world is simply moving

too much faster, all around and past,

than your wide eyes and cadaver neck

can register anymore. You look to be

more baffled than anything else—

there are headlights everywhere…

and you seem ever caught in them.


Though reluctant… Michael Jordan

knew when it was finally time to put

the basketball down, and walk away.

Though I am not suggesting that you

do underwear commercials for Hanes.


But, it might be time for the quiet life,

somewhere in the hills outside of town.


And, if not for yourself… then…

please… do it for the world.



~ for Nicole Lurea Cortichiato, and

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Sunday, October 25



So, I believe in gumption

forged out of impossibility,

how just the right amount,

and brand, of insanity…

and I imply, a beautiful

crazy… can vanquish

the pale and pudge that

infects political smugness.


And I believe in a woman

groping to find her way,

and policies, more than

I do a man who found

his so long ago? he can

no longer put a greased

palm on any one of them

buried in the slew of alibis

that pollute his sagging desk.


So when I pause to look over

the tops of my reading glasses,

much smaller than those huge

round ones she’s made popular,

and I imagine what could secure

a place for my daughter, here in

the country of her birth, I think,


more bartenders named Sandy

serving as her representatives

in the United States Congress.


                       that might do it.

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~ for Charles Bukowski

Thursday, March 25



If UNESCO ever voted

to inaugurate a Poet Laureate

of the Pandemic, I would surely

be the first to heave a waving hand

and nominate you, Charles Bukowski.


Because it was you who taught me how

to sift through the madness and debris

of life’s disasters, to thoughtfully look

at each scorched and shattered piece,

and pick out which shards to keep.


You helped me understand that

ones who would risk the health

and lives of others for nothing

more than a perceived political

right, will always live among us.

Poetic justice seldom to applies

to ignorance as blissful as theirs.


You reminded me that even an old

misanthropic grumpus could love

his daughter beyond reason, cry

when a horse is wounded, sing

of a bluebird hiding in his heart.


You slapped me hard on the back

and laughed into the unrelenting

darkness during my worst years,

when most of those around me

were just quoting Romans 8:28

and saying they would pray for

the soul slipping away in me.


You knew where all this

was headed, as well as

where it wasn’t. So,


I nominate you…

whether UNESCO

pulls through or not.

Pieced Together

~ for Susie Clevenger

Friday, December 18


If your heart is broken,

make art out of the pieces.


~ Shane Koyczan



Each piece of a shattered thing

is now a new little wholeness

on its way to being a part

of another something

the world craves.


The ultimate

medium of art

may just be glue.


Every uneven seam…

a stroke of our suffering…

proof of what can be rejoined…

and that perfection has never mattered.


A good long look at the Earth shows

that God doesn’t like straight lines.


The reason religion has always

disappointed him, terribly.


And, what are we…

except clods of dirt

and some bone taken

from the broken ribcage

of another’s incompleteness?

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