contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

Long Beach, CA


Poetry Blog

As We Strain to Lift His Arms

Brandon Cook

We read in school the story of the hands of Hur 
He who with Aaron of the oil-drenched beard, lifted Moses’ arms, as battle stirred

Metaphor or history falls beside the point
Sometimes a tale is true as poetry, even if it’s myth or mystery

But I simply did not know nor could I fathom then 
And still, I can hardly comprehend
It’s God’s own arms we all hold up
Heaving, heaving on the everlasting arms

We who groan in prayer and sorrow, looking up,
To stars whose cries are burning eyes far too far from Him to lend their help 
Or the succoring kiss of friendship
So we are all He has  

As we learn, again, that God is always crucified and 
Is hanging now ragged as a war-torn heart
God Himself the battle and the battle’s end
As we all, with battered hands, strain to lift His arms 

To Be Caught Between Desires

Brandon Cook

My daughter nearly wept as I stepped out the door 
Unsure whether she should stay or come with me 
And I was only going down the street, to do an errand 
But she could not decide—to come with me or stay inside, with mom

I remember being torn by such desires
When, to young hearts, such choices seem the stuff of destiny, of kings and queens and squires

O, you are fully alive, my child, and still in that holy space before we embrace a lesser flame, tapering down our heart’s long burning wick, to cure its lovesick ways
To be alive and feel as you do, hard struck by the world’s strange beauty, your soul blown open by the wind 
To take and taste your tears and not despise a one of them

I hope you learn this trick (I want to teach you it and learn it new myself),
For I can remember, my love, what it’s like to have your heart so confused, 
Balanced on the spires of competing desires, each earnestly entreating you, 
You, soft and pure and open, befuddled by the need to refuse any pure thing
You, learning what it is to choose, and confused by life's sharp sting

The truth is, I hope you will keep weeping, in courses more broad and more mature, in keeping with your age,
That you become a sage of feeling
Always retaining and maintaining your grand capacity to feel, 
Even as you learn to steel yourself against harsh winds, that still you’ll let stiff breezes in 

That you take in every scrape of the world and the joy of every bee and butterfly 
This is my prayer for you, my child, 
As you become a high-wire walk over green gardens, and streets where the passerby looks up at you, so high above the ground and never looking down 
The clouds white in your eyes, their light shining as the other side draws ever closer in their view 
Your hazel irises still wet but shining
Above a wise and happy smile

The Philosopher’s Commute

Brandon Cook

At six, I finished the philosopher's book 
By the beach as fishermen bobbed their lines and hooks, some dinner to catch and cook
Some food to find
From the quickly darkening sea

He has it all figured out, does he
From a shining tower, whose lofty shade makes a lovely bower
But he, too, must put his book away at end of day
And close his briefcase, shutting the door with a heave and a sigh
As the moon rides high

Then he folds himself into his car and enters the fray on the freeway, 
As evening breaks the back of day
And brake lights become beacons all the way, saying, "All in fits and starts," my friend 

And at pavement’s end, the truth is: 
None from these harried hordes cares a lick what he has to say
As he goes home, has a drink, and sees on the evening news 
The way people still treat each other
Despite the highest notions 
Of life and love 

He becomes then, once again, one of us, 
An angel felled from above 
The bourbon babbling on the back of his throat
As he floats just above the waves
As he bobs on the water of a great, dark ocean


Brandon Cook

I watched a miniseries on Chernobyl
That terrifying tragedy which reminds us that death is many-faced and deathless  
And that, as if this world needed more terrors, it finds new ways to mask its visage, invisible to us as atoms

What I will remember most is the young woman just in harm’s way on the highway, 
Unknowing, when ignorance is no bliss, 
While what rains down is the darkest kiss

She stands beside a broken bike, her beau tugging at the engine, as any of us might in hazy spring heat—
Leaning on a wall, to save her feet 
A cigarette dangling from her fingers
The angle of it the protracted protest 
Of a bored woman not at all enjoying the delays in this impatient world

I imagined, then, what would’ve happened if they found out that radiation was falling all about
I see them scramble in a mad dash through the green spring
To safety
Running if they might to outstrip the wind itself 
To hold onto dear and precious life, catching breath 

All so
They could resume, somewhere, that languorous sighing 
The inhaling of smoke
And the boredom of fixing all the broken things
Arguing beneath a tired headboard 
Waiting for some great thing to happen

On a Normal Tuesday

Brandon Cook

On a normal Tuesday morning, around ten,
Clouds of fog, dirt-tinged, drift in,
Down, along, and across the ridge
Filling the farm bottom with trails of streaming white, 
The gleaming of a sacred light
To bridge the dirt and sky 

In town, a bell rings
And the great storm of earth and sky keeps rolling, threshing like a mill, through its seasons, something too subtle to espy 
Throwing words into the sky, unknowing
Our blind prophet, this earth, ever speaking 
That tide and stars most reliably mark time
And so, too, the migration of the geese
The felling of a scythe 
The occasional dipping down of sky, in mist and fog 

We could be working instead of heaving away from shore, across the bridge in your battered truck
To find some place to stand and fish and hope for luck 
And my God, the world is always just like this, waiting for someone to step back and take it in 
As trucks park and ripe fruit is unloaded in the market
Red and yellow and green
The world so full of such bright things

We land like Martians on happy soil, unloading our tackle boxes,
As we watch the fog pour through the trees
Knowing we need, sometimes, to be covered

Just so, on this Tuesday
Surrounded by so much miracle that it hurts our soul and makes us turn away and, like monks, keep our silence
Our hearts blinded with the pain of too much seeing 
As bluebirds sing
And the morning owl takes wing


Brandon Cook

When I am done with this porch 
I will leave the broom sitting vigilantly over beams so freshly swept
A cleanness kept 
A tornado ready always to strike at Wichita, 
Looming mercilessly to threaten all 
With cleanness 

The broom hangs as a prayer of welcome, accepting that all things change
Everything changes and nothing stays the same
And we will never be done sweeping 
We will always be in the business of cleaning and pushing at the chaos of life and love and loss
It is our lot
And glad or grungy we can plot it

In the past, I would put the broom away, for to say 
“This job is through”
But now I gladly shake the hand of imperfection
And leave incompletion dangling
Hanging like an unfinished note
A shave-and-a-haircut but two-bits has left town 
With the cousins and the family goat

And in all this incompletion, I have learned to find the voice of God
Who shines so brightly through jagged edges and on broken hooks
And the just bent pages of holy books, fallen from their shelves 
Though, “Blasphemy" some old self says, for the Holy One is all complete 
“But don’t you know?” I say
God shows best in places out of place
And Jacob walked with an ungainly gait 

The Japanese have made an art of celebrating the imperfect—the worn down in good use, the broken and repaired
A vase, say, sealed back to life with golden paste
So the broom hangs like gold glue over the porch, promising to repair the world 
And we are all, of course, not only the sweepers but the boards
And the vases, held together by something healing that, if we will let it, reflects light up from holy places 

That is the task: create order out of chaos knowing chaos will take backs its place
Dust will fall, and dust you’ll chase 
But do it with a smile and a grateful face,
Do all this, 
And call it grace


Brandon Cook

When I see photos of Marilyn Monroe, 
And knowing how she flew from this bright world to black and white, and fell below it,
I guess she must have realized, beneath that smile that will never die, how to disappear inside herself
The new Houdini, ravishingly dressed 
Ever vanished beneath pouted lips and swimsuits picked to accentuate her chest

She could turn off whatever self she was, the girl next door,
And become the thing they all adored
But the continual calculus took some doing— 
Stuffing your soul down always does,
Or pushing it into the sky, as disembodied from her famous body, 
She flies on soft breezes, while Sinatra smiles 
And the Kennedys admire this fair land of opportunity

She surveys from above what she’s become
Norma Jean, far from home
Like Noah’s dove, looking for some space to own

But when all the flesh you squeeze and pinch does nothing to conceal the longing 
Which, untouched, becomes a poison, 
Her body, a prison 
A magnet to hold the gaze of so many unseeing men 
There’s only endless roaming, then 

Unless someone holds you with their eyes, there’s no delight in the most supple arms or hands that ply for desperate permission, imploring you
And you know now that charm’s a liar 
And that the loving look is rare 
Except in a good man who’s willing to high-wire through the air
And wade through the haze of so much unreality, which has come to surround and hound you 
Nor can it be found in the grandstands of admirers who want one thing, but not to unhand you

So the soul grows insane from all the stares that never see 
After all, riches are a blinding thing
And breasts, too, and a face that launched a thousand ships and burned down the topless
towers of unthinking men who, in their conflagration, pulled to sand and ash the very beauty they crowded ‘round
Pulled it down and watched it crash

What follows is no mystery—
When your true self is not the you they want to kiss 
You start slipping from your moorings, you turn to mist
We can’t stomach fantasy when the deep soul demands reality

It’s no wonder (and can be no judgment)
That a pill or bottle becomes the thing you think will save you
When you’ve been bandied about and the lot you sold your soul to build upon comes up short
Leaving us to say “goodbye” and “how sad”, as if we had no part in the plot

We’ll simply remember how her smile made us feel
And seemed to promise sun-drenched fields
As we give thanks for grace and begin looking for some new face
To take her place
And save us 
With dreams of a long and warm embrace

Huntington Gardens

Brandon Cook

The old man who tends the gardens has such deep regret
I know because of how he holds the hoe and his head and because he would not look at me as I said “hello"
Though my daughter did get him to crack a smile

Some old men are like boats that settle into the ocean’s swell, even if the swell is sorrow, for miles 
And somehow I know that hoeing these rows is his penance (though his sin I’ll never know)
As he earns enough to sit with cold beer on his warm porch and watch the sun go down, before treading back to these demanding plods of dirt, like divas which will sing for you but, should you forsake them, will let themselves go

I do not know if his redemption lies in the simple furrows
But over many seasons they do make a sort of poetry which is sent out into the world like hope
We watch it grow

And I hope he knows
That picking weeds is a way of setting our world right again
And his posture a fixture of faithfulness which shows us all how to be in the work of any good thing
By simply leaning in, again and again, until the end 

This winter is clad in cold colors, gray and brown
And no one will make a startled sound until the rose bushes blush
And we all fawn for the beauty, as the birds sing

I hope then, as the crowds stamp these grounds,
That the sad man will lean his weight on his tall tools and stop and sigh 
And, if he’s lucky, smile, 
Underneath a warm, blue sky 

God's Own Poems, Like Sparrows in the World

Brandon Cook

The rhythm of these little birds—sparrows, I think, or finches
Lands like God’s poetry on the branches

They are nervous, these birds, like unsettled fingers, 
Startled, perhaps, by the beauty of the bright world

But then they fly in uncomprehending grace, quickly heedless of any beauty or the forested space of green which leans in to befriend their tiny frames 

Since each beat of the wing is driven by hunger, they have no time or thought or feeling for anything other
than beating wings and the daily hunt to quench the sting 
(How things change depending on our perspective and our place)

Like all living things, they are driven forward first by the beauty, then by the hunger of the world 
With inscrutable, searching eyes, they pine, they dive 
But still, beauty can divert their eyes, and surprise them

Just as poems must be sent out, like Noah’s dove,
To take in the world from above
And keep things in perspective
Some bright, right thing to find
So God’s own self is always sent hungry into the world
Like a poem, a word, a dove

Since God needs to take wing and remember
What dirt and dust taste like
And the joy of alighting on supple springtime branches
As hunger, for a sunlit moment, recedes, and we hover—with God and the spring-bound birds—above the fray 

White Pink Morning

Brandon Cook

I believe, as I read the poet this morning, that the bluebird and the white pink morning of which she sings (both the poet and the bluebird) were specific things
Or moments, at least

But removed as I am from her pen and memory, the specific things I cannot see 
Which ends up far better for me: 
Sitting on my couch, for just a moment I am lifted through my mind to every place ever graced by a pink
To Albuquerque, perhaps, or Maine 

I cannot see all the names, shrouded as they are in secrets
As if around us some reality is waiting to come crashing down on top of us
Beautifully, like the heaving of a waterfall, which will not reveal all 
Still, we feel its water certainly inside us

But maybe, too, she had no place in view when she wrote those words
Maybe there was no white pink morning and no bluebird and just an inner eye seeing and beating with the hidden heart of the world

I do not know
But I feel we are heading downstream together, still
To a bright pink morning 
As long as we don’t get bogged down with too many things 
Or even with our own healing
When the bright blue world and its pink mornings are an endless springtime balm 
So willing to hold and sooth and calm us all
As we rise like the sun, not quite sure where we are
As the long day of knowing finally dawns

Today's Metaphor is Rain

Brandon Cook

Maybe that cloud is today’s metaphor for God
Always rising as it is, over the eastern ridge, but somehow never drawing near,
And fanned at its penumbra with burnt smoke 
Fire and clouds and God, all hot with the taste of forest and always changing shape

I’m sure I see the face of some Grace in the shapeless longing to cool the scorched earth with sweet spring rain, though 
As we lay in our tent, struck by the rumble and ruckus of the thunder
In a dark night with no moon to illuminate the steps of any living thing
We waited beneath the tarp for the flicking fingers to begin
And we just went on waiting, until sleep carried us away 

The raindrops never graced us with their presence
And we woke to a dry patch of grass, though, 
Across the meadow, the stream was thicker and more alive with spring
And we tasted second-hand the gift, as grateful bands of animals came and drank
Which became its own picture of mercy, and grand in its way
Though we had wanted water to wet our own hands 
To steady and stay us for the day 

Leaving us the strange shape of how things stand, as we make our way through the thicket of forest
Rain, like mercy, comes in such strange fits and starts
Amid the thirst of so much hungry land
And the hot patches of thirsty ground
Where beauty’s all around 
But the fullness is falling just further down, along the range
As a dark cloud rises, just one ridgeline away 

What God Wants (Pear Cycle III)

Brandon Cook

What God wanted for all those medieval kings and peasants and all peoples of the earth
Was the ripeness of a perfect pear 
Or a tomato redolent in red 
Or an apple whose good skin when cracked was temptation unto besetting sin 
So close to holy love is carnal lust, when it cloys our deepest sense

But you and I just ate better than any medieval king, my love
Or Senator of ancient Rome
With wine unmarked by bitter earth 
And fruit unfettered by assaulting herbs

And as sure as moon pulls at the earth, you’re my sea of deepest mirth
My far away journey, my return to home
Your lips, your laugh, your smile, your breasts,
You kiss of God’s bright love, 
You crown my head which is always shaking in wonder
This ecstasy before us could be chalky dust:
If you don’t have love, the food of gods is not enough

Sitting across from you, how high the moon shines down
And how deep the swallow dives into our cups
As we sit so close to what God’s own self wants 
And is always giving endlessly 

Whose alchemy turns the gifts of earth 
To gold, of so much dust and dirt

Before I Go, to All the Books I've Read

Brandon Cook

I believe on the day I die all the books I’ve read will rise 
To thank me, and I them
We’ll shake hands in a long line, and spend a quiet time wide-eyed, with lips pursed to hold down all that is inside us
And before some of them I’ll pause, a sad and knowing smile on my face, and I’ll touch their spine, 
For some, that will be enough, but to others I’ll whisper something just loud enough for them alone to hear
They’ll laugh and cry in that sacred mix of powerlessness and love and letting go
And each will hand to me a stem of fruit in different shapes
Pears and apples, oranges and grapes
Before I come down to the ocean water and the waves which will take me home

I will try to screw my tears down then, but if they come, so be it
Then I’ll nod my head and look up the beach
And perhaps, a unicorn or stag will appear, breaking up the sand as it runs towards it freedom—and it may all be real, for by then I’ll be seeing clear through to the other side

But before I go, of course, I’ll walk the fruit back to that fabled tree and place it on the branches
The tree will receive it, suckling it back onto its breast to hang there 
Until someone soon after me plucks it and drink its juice down to their young roots

Then, I’ll swim into those clear cold waters, my breath leaving me, and all the words and worlds will fade behind, as I come to the place beyond them, 
Where there is only sight and sound and once again, like a babe new born in the bright blue world, all is light 
To this place where all the books—when they stumbled into truth—were pointing us:
This place so full of You 
With ears now opened and the song of my eyes quiet, filled and full,
With all I never knew

Apples Should Be Heard (Pear Cycle II)  

Brandon Cook

I tried to eat quietly, but the lady next to me turned her eyes and smiled
And I grimaced apologetically, slowly removing the offending apple from my mouth, mouse-like,
A child whose secret has been spied out
She said, “That’s alright…a pear should be silent but an apple should be heard,”
Then she turned back to her magazine as if she’s bandaged a knee and healed the world 
And I nodded, wondering at her marvelous words
A pear should be silent; an apple should be heard 

Visions of a sun-drenched farm filled my head, and children chasing dogs and geese
down to a pond, by an orchard, where perfect pears drop down, so full of life they want to burst, weighing branches with redolent mirth, until a child smiles and plucks one, and when he bites into it, the whole world goes quiet

The dog perks its ears and shuts its mouth before its tongue comes lolling out, and a hawk wheels about the blue sky and away from the earth with shrieks of worship, 
Thousands of miles away, the arms of Venus de Milo are restored to their proper home 
And the cantors at St. Peter’s in Rome, find their voices strangely and suddenly lush, while congregants hush 
And the Great Barrier Reef flourishes in deep hues, the ocean floor rejoicing

I am afraid, however, that the next pear I find will be one of those rude varieties, hard and cold like stars 
It will turn its back on me and belch when I try to take a bite of it, longitude ripping in two as the world spins catawampus down the stairwell of stars, while everyone turns and stares, throwing soggy apples at my head, some of which thump soundlessly on the hard ground
Don’t you know, you villain, they all yell: “a pear should be silent but an apple should be heard!”

I nod my heard, for they’re dead to right 
As we all long for a world where things find their proper place and spring is an immortal sprite
Sitting in the stands while Babe Ruth steps to the place
Ready to take a loud crack at the bat
As a ball flies in its most efficient arc, before the longest day of summer, warm and cool and perfect

All Very Much the Same

Brandon Cook

In the last hour of a good day when, if you’re lucky, you smile at some passing trifle of this life, unwinding yourself towards bed and
The great daily dying, for resurrection in morning light
You sigh your soul alongside the great questions, for just a moment,
You graze the fingers of your soul over the inscrutable rock face
Carved with words you can’t quite make out 
And gaze your sight into the unflinching quiet, where all is night,
Before you close your eyes
And then you fall asleep before them—the questions you could not crack—an old man or woman that will wake again as child, in new light
Bound to blow wind again into the sail of a boat which can’t quite find the sea 

Sleep is our surrender
And in this space, in the last hour of day, all the inequities of history spin away
Until balanced on the same axis we behold each other plainly, if we have the eyes to see
There’s Cleopatra sitting across from me, and Einstein looking plaintively
Peasants, and nameless hordes (and I among them), all seeing our humanity
And nodding, at last judgment free 

Some sit in this holy hour by candlelight, some by campfire,  
Some in the glow of a screen, perhaps spilling all the sacredness like perfume poured profligate on the ground, 
(Though it’s too sacred to be poured out entirely
The vessel refills itself, endlessly)

Wealth or rank possessing decided these things, when and how we sit and stand, but
Wherever we may be, we all step outside our proverbial tent beneath a cobalt desert sky—the stars burning on every side, sighing
As they unwind their own selves slowly, asking the questions that burn within us all,
Undying beacons in the night, ready for sleep themselves, still staring down at us, as if for answers—
We who make up a great constellation, burning here in holy darkness 

I Cried During a Superhero Movie

Brandon Cook

I cried during a superhero movie, and then I smiled, because on the screen a green giant stood by a talking tree
Kudos—they had denied the fantasy and defied that part of me that keeps its guard up
And it is marvelous, truly:
The many forms of human imagination that grace us in these strange days
As we project outside us, on screens, all the things inside us
In forms which dance and prance for us so that we can see without being sighted
Which, sure, is why I go to movies—to partake in the clash of light and dark
Safely and without a scratch  

I suppose I could drive home from the theatre on the freeway at 95 miles per hour and pretend I had some epic deed to attend to, but
It’s lying beside you 
And the smiling faces that will greet us, pure as sunlight and unscathed by this hard life, 
So full of so much love, 
Which bathes everything in a flood of light
And sets the scene for this script of meaning, as if we’re filmed on every side 
(Maybe angels watch us, just as we watch movies)

The hope of tomorrow invites me to walk deliberately— 
As if some bit of eternity depends on me, and some small universe to save 
One as dear to me as any
Their faces and yours I hold ever before me
And I can only hope, as I mind my speed,
That all these small steps lead to a destiny and form the orchestra of a great symphony
A soundtrack not heard by many ears nor adulated crowds 
But heard by theirs and yours
As it echoes now across our world
And into some future place where our galaxy, indeed, is saved
A place full of light, and leave the capes
What graces us is a long embrace— 

The unseen future after the credits crawl
The hardest work of all, the work of peace when there’s no grand battle to distract us 
The work of tending frail and fragile human hearts
The work of feeding heroes, who grow into giants, like trees and gods,
With strong hearts, full of love, that guard us all

The Goths at Disneyland

Brandon Cook

When the sun becomes too much, the best part of this place is sitting in the shade
and watching the goths mingle among the geeks
and the Greek gods, Kardashian-like, that float among us all

They don’t mingle exactly—they’re still discrete groups which keep a good few feet apart, like high school, except we’re all here because we want to be
Which says something deep:
We are bound and bridged by common hopes and fears and dreams 
And the common screams of joy which assure us we’re feeling something, at least
As we fall in controlled arcs, arms, legs, and feet inside at all times

Where else can you wear all black to ink the world out, and yet still reveal there’s some bright hope within you? 
And, thank God, black Mickey ears to match your eyeshadow?
You’re just a kid, with all of us, despite the dark bangs
And kids need playgrounds—there’s no shame 

I remember when Ben, our quarterback, started crying and didn’t care
That was our eleventh grade year, and everyone stopped and stared
That’s just like being here:
The masks are still there, but lowered;
We’re all admitting we need a break and tired,
And still, full of bright longing for a tomorrow land 
Which binds, though sure, not quite hand-to-hand 

I confess gladly, in my flannel,
With you, the goths, and the soccer moms with strollers,
Bound by that drive to have no pretense:
We all grasp for that golden land 
Like old men able again to kick-the-can
A world with peace on earth, 
And no masks needed to hide the inner man 
While we say, “that was a really long line” and sigh and smile 

If it’s a make-believe mouse that makes it happen, whose hands all our children wish to hold, why not?
Somehow, in this good place, there’s grace, and the world is not so hard to understand 
As wolves lie down with lambs

A Falling Clod of Dust, in the Reijksmuseum

Brandon Cook

Everyone standing before The Night Watchgot their phone out to take pictures
(What a world we now have)
As if to prove that they were here
I guess it was just too much to be there 
And we all needed something else to do

When suddenly—because everything is sudden, from a certain point of view—
A piece of dust fell from the top of the frame and began a long, slow promenade
There was the holiest hum as it hung before the throngs and made its way, inexorably down,
Yes, the holy murmur of the crowd gazing at the light on those staid faces, looking every which way, as if they surveyed us,
Did not falter, nor those painted faces blink at the dust

I almost turned to the person next to me, as if I’d say, “My God, and we were here for it”
Before realizing: it was just dust
And at least once a week or month some such thing must happen 
The accumulation too much, it rolls off, a glad clod, 
It touches holy ground

At length, as I walked away from that glad gallery, a young woman—I was young like her once—said, “That is so cool”
(The painting, not the dust)
And indeed it was
The light of that magical canvas its own symphony, sad, stark, serene

In the next room was a painting far less grand that I liked almost as much
A drunken man
A festooned merchant with scabbard in a golden band
A mendicant friar somehow playing poker
And a man’s hand, desperately copping a feel of his girlfriend’s breast
It seemed more true, or just as much
As The Night Watch 
More, for that matter, like the dust

Despite all the light we crave, you end up playing a sighing game of poker on a hazy afternoon
And it all goes so fast, this life, and our golden aspirations for light 
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
At least we will all have so many pictures to remind us
That we were there
And we will recall, perhaps, how hard it was to stand in holy light 
As we will—on that gray morning—purse our lips and nod our heads
And see at last just how truly grand it all was 

The End of Our Arrangement

Brandon Cook

I enjoy this conspiracy of conversation, 
Everyone committed to not saying too many words, nor anything too deep,
It’s nice, the polite nods, and the way everyone speaks like dipping their toes in water, never jumping in

I detest small talk, but there are times when such trite niceties are fine, with no surprises to make us flinch 
Everyone on guard, best behavior, best face forward  
We, parents of tee-ballers, thrown together by happenstance—with babies born near the same time —we know how to put on the nice face

There are greater tribes, of course, bonded together by their love of Orcas and the need to save them
Or by God, 
Or worse, by darker powers,
But we share a bright glimmer of hope in our collective eye, the big world a pop fly to be caught by small hands 
Our hopes and dreams already handed off to their young and grasping grips, which we fit with gloves 
Hoping to give them the best chance
To catch the hard hops
To widen their stance and hit it hard as they can

All this longing which rends our souls in love
Is hidden beneath our conversation, all too holy to acknowledge here, a white glove you dare not brandish in a muddy land, nor with people you hardly know
So, we cover that inner fresco with nicely sanded wood, and lock the church doors for good measure 

We are each others’ captors for this hour, as we laugh at inane jokes between pitches,
though they aren’t funny 
A bit of Stockholm syndrome setting in

But then, half way through the 5th, the wings come off:
Someone makes a jibe about the President, and the man beside me blanches 
A bird lifts from the electric wire behind us, and flies away  
Blood boils and lions scramble as the circus tent comes down
Lovely in its catastrophe, the way the colors float and flit, 
And awful, too, for what’s been lost

A clown has pulled the very thread you do not touch, and it just keeps getting pulled from the great sleeve of awkwardness 
As we sit quietly
Until someone says, “Okay, Ben, give it a rip, give it a rip!” and we all clap, half-heartedly 

Even the Gods Are Mortal

Brandon Cook

There is a moment when the new slugger walks into the clubhouse—
That great god of the diamond
That Adonis on red dirt and grass 
Trumpeted in black and white lines, all over the country
A hero, a divinity, meant to inflame hope and remind us
There is glory left to play for
That whatever fell dead surround us—the carcasses of spring’s fool dreams— 
A summer trade springs hope, and springs eternal

There is a moment—and just a moment, blink and you’ll miss it—
When he quivers inside
Shudders as he never would before a curveball or an inside heater
And he doubts
An ash tree falling like timber inside him

He recovers quickly, give him that
He smiles with a grimace, gripping his bat
And then puts the swagger back on his face
To meet his teammates
Like a jaguar claiming his spots
He adopts what he has become
Larger than life
He just slips that on

And they are all too awed to catch much more of the moment than that
And perhaps, too,
The resplendence of his suit
Which is soon to be replaced by the white robe that is his uniform 
And he a priest of fly balls and long drives 

But one or two, they saw it, breaking through
That look of uncertainty
That human question, living in the heart of gods—do I have a place?
It makes its inexorable way into their midst
A serpent always being born in flame
As smiles and swagger seek to extinguish it