The Cortland Review


Kurt Brown
Poetry and the Language of Adam considers language from where it began—"the language of the body, the senses, the language of the Eden we have and not the ideal, abstract one we seek."

Kurt Brown

Who Knows Where and Marston’s Field, two new poems by Kurt Brown

Billy Collins

Excerpts from a conversation led by Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, a special audio program of The Paula Gordon Show.

Lucille Clifton
The Power of Mercy, a book review by Teresa Ballard, points to the unanswerable questions about race, gender, and terrorism in Clifton's latest book, Mercy.

Amy Holman
Flow, Eddy, Flood, one chapter of a novel in progress, fictionalizes a poignantly hilarious wedding disaster.

Kurt Brown

Kurt BrownKurt Brown is the author of five chapbooks and four full-length collections of poetry, including Return of the Prodigals (Four Way Books, 1999), More Things in Heaven and Earth (University Press of New England, 2002), Fables from the Ark (WordTech, 2004), and Future Ship, forthcoming from (Story Line Press, in June, 2005). He is also the editor of several poetry anthologies and founder of the Aspen Writers' Conference as well as various other Writers' Conferences and Centers. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and, in spring 2005, was the McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Kurt Brown - Poetry


Who Knows Where    Click to hear in real audio

Christmas, 1948, our tree stood preening in a corner, decked out

          like Aunt Rose.

Tinsel shimmered, aping icicles that clutched our eaves, while

          a necklace

of electric lights in various colors bubbled from the boughs.

          Here and there

a frosted figure hung, composed of dough, some house of gingerbread

          or leaping deer.  

Atop the very tip, nearly scraping the ceiling, a toxic cloud of fiberglass

          white as Santa's beard

on which a paper angel rode, her skirt a cone of cardboard gold.


a cairn of presents, bound in ribbon or scintillant thread. But the thing

          that caught our eye,

the center of our wonder, was a bulb that gleamed like polished lapis,

          bigger than the rest,

a blue so intense it smoldered, as if it hid a depth, some mysterious distance

          in which all light

was turned back, leaving its core impenetrable, black.  Family legend

          had it some ancestor,

generations back, had blown that ornament himself and brought it

          to these shores.

Passed down, it was unpacked year after year then placed into its box

          again, like the baby

Jesus in his manger, and stowed in the attic. We approached it

          with a mixture

of detachment and awe, gazed into its surface to see ourselves reflected there,

          distorted faces

flattened out and curved, as in a funhouse mirror. But always at its center

          that mystery.

We squinted, gawked, screwed our faces up to read some meaning, some hint

          of where it came from,

but it preserved its equanimity, its rooted calm. No crystal ball, no

          lucid window

to the future, but a blazing opacity—the round, blown, frail enigma of
     the past.



Marston's Field    Click to hear in real audio

Sunlight one Sunday afternoon, and dust
on the bumpy road through Marstson's field
which lay on the banks of the river between
the water and the hump of Indian ridge.
The three of us and Mr. Burrows, ex-GI,
who bore a stitch of scars around his middle
where bullets were machine-gunned
in. But he survived to teach us
how to drive in his converted jeep rollbarred
for the worst, in case we caromed off
through furrows bristling with desiccated corn
or slammed into boles of oaks along the river.
We cranked the clutch and yanked
the shiftstick, then bucked ahead
to swerve across a washboard of exposed roots
until we found a little turnspot at the end,
carved out of sumac, and careened around it,
hooting, terrified but happy, while he bellowed
shift it down, god damn it, shift it down!
We shredded metal, jammed the brakes
and hurtled forward, trying to coordinate our feet,
a little dance of easy-does-it, a little waltz
around a weed-choked road that led
to keep-on-going, pour-it-on-and-don't-look-back.





© 2005 The Cortland Review