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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15 thoughts on “John Brown

  1. Jae Rose May 29, 2016 / 3:41 pm

    Oh yes..i am sure he knew – another clever poem that nests inside the mind – and makes you wonder about your own words – although what to wonder here is all

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  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) May 29, 2016 / 4:26 pm

    Maybe poets are all in the past tense, and that we live in present tense pretense… It does make sense to write it in the past, because the poem in itself has changed yourself… great thoughts Matthew.

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  3. Sherry Blue Sky May 29, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    I am most gripped by the piercing church chimes quaking up the limp leg in the pale moonlight. Fantastic lines!

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  4. scotthastiepoet May 29, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    One one level, he knew and lived it and on another he didn’t and your piece captures this essence of the human experience, very well…

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  5. Magaly Guerrero May 29, 2016 / 8:27 pm

    Sometimes, no… most times, it is so difficult to examine the work of certain artists without asking ourselves the questions asked by your poem. Did he know? Indeed…

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  6. Mary May 29, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    I never thought about what it meant if a person wrote in past tense before. I will from this time forward.

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  7. oldegg May 30, 2016 / 2:04 am

    Now I am going to have check everything I write. I never think about it but writing about the past does make it seem more credible.

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  8. thotpurge May 30, 2016 / 2:16 am

    Oh a lovely poem… Piercing church chimes that Quake up a limp leg… a great line there!

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  9. Wendy Bourke May 30, 2016 / 2:29 am

    This is so wonderfully sketched : a haunting piece upon which you have placed a haunting question: Did he know.

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  10. Sumana Roy May 30, 2016 / 5:13 am

    i think the reference to the ashen tree perfectly describes your protagonist, who has been alternately seen in both positive and negative views which makes him a legendary as well as an impenetrable mystery figure…may be he knew he would be a part of history, thus this fondness for past tense…..

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  11. Rosemary Nissen-Wade May 30, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    The abolitionist? Did he write things?

    When I was a little girl, my Grandma – who was not American but was anti-slavery – taught me to sing, ‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but his truth is marching on!’ To her he was a great hero.

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  12. divalounger May 31, 2016 / 12:42 am

    Good question–maybe yes, but I think really, no–maybe he just went with it –I like how this piece makes me pause–

    Like

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