Issue > Poetry
Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown’s The Woods Are on Fire: New & Selected Poems will be out from University of Nebraska Press in March 2017. Professor emerita at the University of Delaware, past poet laureate of Delaware, she lives in Traverse City, Michigan and is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program in Tacoma, Washington.

Surrounded by People


Someone has overwatered the peace lily in the foyer; now
it's yellow and drooping and the leaves have blackened edges.

And people, especially people with sleek sports cars, are parking
in the handicapped spaces. Meanwhile I have been reading

Crime and Punishment, re-visiting Raskolnikov in the grip
of his idea (from his reading!) that if one breaks through rules,

he can be Napoleon and triumph over the mundane, so he murders
the vile old pawnbroker (who cares about her?) and her daughter

(accidentally!) with an axe. But no, he's not superman, he's
wracked with guilt, not that he cares for the old woman, or

anyone, it seems, but still, this act is as much degradation as his
(previously unrecognized) soul can bear before he breaks through

to love—for Sonya, the prostitute! This is the basic architecture.
I've poured the excess water from the peace lily, but about

the parking, there's nothing to be done except complain silently.
We're all full of ideas, even the poems have an idea they sometimes

let fly at the end in a white passion, as if it were an axe. Then they
listen for what's out there afterward. Like Raskolnikov, they wait

on the other side of the door, ready for anything, with their prepared
reasons, excuses. Where is the meaning in all this? It's all trying

to Live in some grand way while the actual living was going on—
the novel, the poem, and at the end certainly, nothing more, it's all

done. There's nothing more to say, the page runs out, the effort,
holy or unholy, to see beyond. It's all personality, all these people

living in their apartments, carrying their groceries up in little carts.

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