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Just Now


Grant us more time,

that we may someday

figure out that we are

wasting our time by

worrying about time.


It’s much harder than

it sounds. And judging

by that opening stanza

it sounds pretty hard.


But we must do this.

We must realize that

biting our fingernails

over what comes next


is little more than the loss

of a good fingernail or two,


since what comes next

never seems to arrive.


We turn that corner

and it’snowagain.

Just like it was

nowback then.


We keep doing this.

And that ol’ trickster,

time, keeps not being

the past or the future.


And we keep being

confused by all this.


And so, we’re never

quite here for the now

that needs us so much.


Young Soldier

You left home so full

of fear, and yet, a vague

sense if invincibility.


But now, years later,

what you saw there—

what you came to know

but not understand—


possesses you in a way

they could not have

prepared you for.


And though they pay

for your education,

you’re not learning

what you need

to become

whole again.


But we are here.

And we appreciate


what you did for us…

what you’ve endured

that you can’t, yet,

talk to us about.


And when you wake

at 3:00 am confused

about the enemy…


we are on your side.


We want to help with

this. The tougher war.


The one they may not

have warned you about.


The one you did not

see coming.


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

What Holds 

I may not be the poet

that saves the world…


but… I have a vague idea

of what would happen to it

if the poets ever threw it in.


Even the ones who go unread

are some part of the thin thread

that holds this thing together.


And even those who refuse

to read them understand

what the ocean’s bed

does for the ocean.


How, so often, it is

some unseen promise

that keeps it all from falling.

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A Hymn of Praise

When the tight muscles

and June-tanned limbs

of a woman pull you into

her bursting garden of a body,

your gratitude must be sacred.


Go and grab your best tools.

Rip out every warped plank

and rough splintered beam

from the dry-docked vessel

of your long-waning faith.


Build her a holy sanctuary

that will carry the praises

of her pristine beauty

back to its source.


Sing hymns to lift her

above the cruel confusion

of a world filled with liars

and barely breathing men

who trade soul for biology.


Then recite as your liturgy

that the jewel of her face

and finely sculpted form

are the very things divine

design had in mind.

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Nevertheless, It Moves


~ Galileo, 1642


You took away our center,

displaced us, moved us away from

the command post of God’s universe,

     then you stuck some bright star,

     a burning ball with no soul,

     there in our place instead.


How did you think the cardinals

and bishops would react to the news,

     after they’d gone to all that trouble

     having their elaborate gowns tailored,

     not to mention the huge expense 

     of those great and gaudy hats?


Maybe at sixty-nine you saw a certain

allure in the conditions of house arrest.

     I’m in my late forties, and I’ll tell you,

     it’s crossed my mind a time or two.


Maybe you saw more in that telescope

than you were prepared to tell us.


Either way, the more I mull over

     your defiant last words,

the more I want to say them out loud

     to everyone I meet.

iLone Together


The other night,

over a quiet dinner

at the Snack Bar

on South Congress,


my wife and I became

those people sucked into

the narcotic glow of iPhones.


Talking, not quite to each other.

Smiling, not quite at each other.


It lasted less than a minute.

But I’m still, days later,

sad about it.

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Neruda’s Garden


When the soldiers flooded Neruda’s garden

with their orders, that night on Isla Negra,

the poet turned them on their heels

from the top of his stairs

with one careful phrase…


There is only one danger for you here: poetry.


And so it is, I’m reminded,

some poet in the Middle East

lost his hand today, which

makes me sad how safe I am

in America these days.


The worst they would do here?

Tap my phone? Monitor emails?

Or maybe peek at my books,

which worries me very little

when it comes to a politician’s

skills with literary interpretation?


Capitol Hill has forgotten this power.

They don’t know where to send the soldiers.

They’ve lost the coordinates for the garden.


But I am at the desk upstairs, writing.

And the garden is here outside my window,

filled with fellow citizens sipping lattes

and driving Toyotas.

                                        And I am trying

to become dangerous.

Existential Solstice


This—the day that offers

the least amount of light—

rates as my favorite of the year…

this day and the hundred or so

that fall right before.


Nothing too philosophical about it,

except maybe that I smell more beauty

in the winter of things.


Spring tosses out dangerous promises

like rose petals at a white wedding.


But autumn’s slow leak into December

teaches us to hold hands

as we come to grips with endings…


with where the inevitable swings

of the planet’s axis are taking us.


Little Jerusalems

Has all my education,

scrutiny and cynicism,

come to this lamentation?


Oh God, forgive us.

Please grant us healing.

We cry out for peace . . . 

not only for the peace

of Jerusalem, but all

the little Jerusalems


of our hearts. Their walls

tumbling down all over

again, crumbling stone


by stone, pushing down

the dead, dusty layers

of past cataclysms.

The Sign


 She comes in—tanned, tight jeans,

bleach-blond hair down the back,

blue eyes and too much makeup—


with a baby on her hip. And I’d

decided already what this poem

was going to be about, when she


sits down across from what looks

to be her father and begins to sign

with her one free hand. He smiles


and signs back—hands rolling effusively,

lips moving in a soundless poetry.

Their gazes trade loves back and forth.


The baby’s eyes glow in the wave

and trickle of mom’s fingers that must

look like birds close enough to touch.


And the trusses of my preconceptions

begin to buckle. The edges of prejudice

begin to crumble like dry toast…


and…          I have made a mistake.


I want to go over and apologize,

but I don’t know the sign for that.

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