archives winter 2008



Brain Damage

I don't really want to be here.  In a poetry workshop for four people with brain
damage, I ask them to become animals.

                                                            What do you dream? 

                                                                          Where do you
                                                                 carry your heart? 

One becomes a dolphin.  One a pig.  One an eagle.  One a spider.

                                                                     How do you

                                                   What are you afraid of?

I dangle inside my own head.  I speak in sparks.  I carry my heart in a pouch.  I
speak in webs.  I carry my heart in a cloud.

                                                                                                            What are you
                                                                                                 afraid of?
                                                                                                 What do you love?

I carry my heart in mud.  They draw nebulous pictures.  The thimble sized spider.
The pencil pig fills up the page with its hunger.  The dolphin is hidden in blue
ocean streaks.

                                                    What is the secret

                                                            no one knows about you?

                                      “Wound words.  Broken teacups.  Shattered eggs.”
                                             Possible answers.

A heavy redolent apple hangs inside the skull.  The brain like a big sunflower
burning, throbbing in an empty field.  A fat walnut with luscious marrow.  One
man thanks me.  He says I am making him think, and he hasn't thought in a long

                            One man reads
                    his poem twice

                                                                                                because he loves
                                                                                                the way it leaps.

                                                About to burst the sky.

As I leave, a pig grows portly with contentment, satiated, unable to budge.  A
dolphin arcs in and out of the circles of paint like shiny buttons in the tray of water
colors.  A spider is stitching his silence to the walls.  I tell them I will come back—
a horse, hooves sparking.  None of us believes it.  There will, of course, be other obligations.

                        A damaged eagle


                                                   against the ceiling.


Prologue / (Wake)

I attend my wake.
“Hello, dead me.”

Writing instruments
Connected directly to the pulse.

My tongue waits.

Attach the living to the dead,
The inhale to the exhale.

I write with a plutonium rod,
Dotting the i with light.

Connect my waking to my

Why is it I forget to wake.

Reconnect the father to the mother,
Fire to water, earth to air

“Gee, I think I look
better with my eyes closed.”

The dawn is bound with light.

Attach mouth to word.
Attach wind to writing.

“My breath marries the air.”

The man drops his dark
Window—the once conjoined twins
At last reattached.

(Book as alembic)  “Now,” It says,
“you can finally write.”

“Next,” says the welder.

I am a tongue
Waiting for lips.


(Wake) / Epilogue

Wake up the light.

I am lips
Waiting for a tongue.

The diamond cutter
Splits the atom.

You can breathe now.

(I dabble
In elixir and physics.)

“I don’t know
What got into me.”

A trans-fission of light.

“I create the horizon
With a knife—

Split words
With a glass cutter.”

Separate breath
From lung,

Words from books;

Crystallize the quintessential.

I separate the
Conjoined twins.

Two hearts.
One brain.

You can, if
You so desire,

A word of it.  


Patrick Lawler is author of A Drowning Man is Never Tall Enough (University of Georgia Press, 1990), reading a burning book (Basfal Books, 1994), and Feeding the Fear of the Earth, winner of the Many Mountains Moving poetry book competition (2006).