John Brown

Matthew Henningsen's The Literary Doc

I wonder what he meant, among
Other things, by writing in
The past tense. He was
Still alive, still wild-
Eyed, but writing in
The past tense.

Did he know?

The pale moonlight.
The sudden nightmare of
Piercing church chimes that
Quake up a limp leg
Twisting round
And round…

An ashen tree,
In dead December.

Did he know? Man
Alive man so
Wild-eyed.

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Time – less

Matthew Henningsen's The Literary Doc

Still moments beyond memory see
An old woman, fumbling for keys,
At the very top of
Unlit, creaky wooden steps.

While a young man wakes up
In a panic sweat, cold and hard,
And hears: the wind tapping
On cold car windows

Outside, where a woman drops
A quarter that no one finds.

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The Departed

Gone. Where have they
Gone? These picnickers once
Here. The
Dirty plates – the
Fragments of food left to
Rot by batted down grass –
The bottle thrown and left
Sleeping by the slow
Moving stream. Is

That the break of a branch
In the distance? Voices blown in
On the wind? I think to
Follow, to walk the path of prints
In mud, the refuse left
Behind. Just

Echoes on shadowy ridges. Just
Foot-falls. Bits of food that
Float down the stream I
Cannot cross in the thick of
The sweet summer rain. Just…

The blanket left behind.
The lip-stains on glasses by
Rusty, rutted
Metal trash cans.

Goodbye, to all that

Sudden on silent nights I
Think of the long farewell…
The wave –
The sweet smile hidden
Beneath a fading sun… All this

Is lost somewhere, this
Day of shadows and rain and
Whispers said to calm storms
That call out on
Foreign, frozen sands. Like

A petal I picked up once and
Stored once in my pocket for
The longest time. I
Couldn’t let it go. Then,
Once on days by cascading
Trees once that hung
With gray, smiling moss I
Found it once again and saw that
It had turned once into an
Old coin I lost once, long ago, falling

Down a well I threw it in
For the best of luck. This

The farewell, the long goodbye that
I had but can’t remember on starry
Nights by quiet streams that told
Of storms and tables and shouts too
Far to be heard, but seen…

Always to be seen.

Mementos from the End of Time

“… scraps of memory found in dull minds…”

At the end of time, when
The trees can no longer stand and
Small birds fall
Down from the pale sky, I

Think I’ll take that barren path that
Stretches out to the
Forgotten, though calm, lake…
And sit –
And pick up little sharp rocks –
Tossing them into
The broken water.

While the lone boat of a
Lone man paddles off into
The distance. So,

This is the place I’ll be and
Where you can find me, if
You want. Look for
The stick up against
The hollow tree. The
Golden time-watch inside. Or,
Find me in the dirt on boot-soles
Left warming beside slowly
Dying fires. The letter left
Unopened in the metal
Mailbox… but waiting…

Always waiting like the man seen
Far ahead on a trail. His
Back to us as he rounds a corner by
A tree… but, somewhere, in
The green thick of the trees he
Waits, a walking stick
In hand.

While an old, worn
Book remains open and
Hidden in a deep, quiet
Cavern, somewhere…

The Wanderer’s Lament

The Wanderer’s Lament, Spoken Aloud
In Distant Lands

You were once so
Wild. So much like the
Dirt picked up on broken
In shoes that stormed off
On cool mountain days. Once

You had descended into
Dark pyramid holes. Sweat
Staining a hat burned by
The stern sun. A wild,
Unshaven, sun-mad man
Unable to come home. Yes,

You could not be found except
In postcards and in the vague
Memories of midnight baristas who
Brought you a café and cream. You
Who were known by the wind that
Blew up bits of tattered paper, or
The ripped out sections of guide books left

On tables by steep mountain cliffs
Where you drank wine and ate olives
Picked from the fertile fields
Below. You,

The traveler the wanderer and
Lone man lost to crowds by dark
Cathedrals lit only by bent
Candles near pale,
Beckoning saints.

You, I think,
Were here once…

Instagram of a Lady

If you happened to hike up
This way, trekking from town,
That crouches over a crevasse
That tumbles to a stream
That swirls to a river
That churns to a sea where
Ships power off to ports
Where people come,
Pushing down from cloud-hung,
Distant hills. And,

If you happened to push
Through brambles and brakes
And if you gazed up at
A half-shuttered window you might see,
Reflected in watery glass:
A mute, stuffed nightingale perched
Next to open scissors that point
At a mound of beads, waxed –

While, with a face to a wall,
A lone figure, turns.

Lost in Bastogne

When I left, I hadn’t planned on walking that long. I woke up, walked up to the great star of the WWII monument just outside of town, and then, really just because, I ventured off on a lone dirt road that wound into a cloudy, wet distance.

At first, I remember nothing but sun and farmland and quiet, grazing cows. Cows I could walk up to and just stare at… they never, for some reason, seemed bothered by me. Then, on the very edge of town, the old Belgian man getting his mail as I walked down the road. I’ll never forget speaking to him in broken French, saying something about the beauty of the day, and wishing him well. But, I kept going.

It did, eventually, become too much, and the first charm wore off as the run started coming down, and I got increasingly lost. Wandering in a maddening haze. But I was drawn by the history of the place. Bastogne. The outskirts of town and the hills where the Battle of the Bulge had been fought. And everywhere signs pointing to monuments that, for some reason, I could never find. Just dirt and rain, my shoes soaked and ruined, and…

The bleak, thick forests
Stands of ominous, dark tress –
Something happened here.

To A Poem, Lost Once

Fare well, frail, little poem
Of mine. Be gone and try to
Find your place in this
Beautiful, cruel world. I

Can do nothing else for
You. You must go on and find
Those spaces where time is
Infinite, and the broken page
Can no longer hurt. It

Is gone, just as we are suddenly
Gone and like the dust you pick
Up and blow out of your hand. Gone
Like the wind that blows around a corner
We cannot quite see. So

Go my little poem, leave
Me to new thoughts and new
Ways of finding old things.