White Eagle Coffee Store Press 2006 Poetry Chapbook Winner
So the Night Cannot Go on without Us by Brian Brodeur
Brian Brodeur was born in Worcester, MA in 1978. His work has appeared in Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, New Orleans Review, Crab Orchard Review, River Styx, Meridian, and the anthology Best New Poets 2005 (University of Virginia Press), among others. Brian's poems have recently been translated into Spanish and Bosnian. He lives and works in Fairfax, VA. This is his first chapbook.
THE LAST SWIMMERS
He goes under--it's all he can think to do--
waits for his feet to touch bottom, clutches
her ribs and lifts her like a dancer
above the steaming surface so she can breathe.
Parting the muck, he takes no small pleasure
in feeling her arms squeeze his neck, her breasts
pressing against his back as he starts
to paddle. She slides her hand down his chest
to grip him tighter, and he's convinced
he can open his throat and swallow the whole
lake down, guzzle the grainy blackness, gulp
by gulp, until they could walk back to shore.
Her breathing matches his. Is she humoring him?
Her hair spills over his shoulders and sticks to his lips.
Farther in, his toes kick the mud below. So what
if he keeps swimming, carrying her, weighted
down by this strange lust he feels for the thrill
of her fingernails, her body slapping his?
Isn't this what he'd wanted, a task he could not fail?
Gliding together, they come close enough
to touch the moon, making it ripple where it floats.
From the Author
Many of these poems take place abroad, mostly in the west of Ireland where I spent a year living in Galway City, working on a dairy farm in County Mayo, and traveling throughout that country and others. Though some of the events described in these poems are not autobiographical, I have tried to capture something of lived experience, to imbue even the most embellished narrative with the sense that a breathing human being tasted, saw, heard, and felt these things. Though they incorporate a variety of tenors, voices, and modes, my hope is that these poems cohere through common thematic threads and shared formal devices: familial lyrics, pastoral love poems, monologues--all are represented here. Many flirt with traditional storytelling, allowing dramatic moments to exist on their own, without meditation or commentary.
These exquisite poems result, in part, from careful observation of the natural world, as in "a last snowflake leaves its print on the windshield, slight as the foot of a bird." Intensity is achieved in delicate layers of vulnerability, finality, and elegant wording. Emotional states of mind are skillfully conveyed. All life, both the attractive and the repulsive, is considered with tenderness--a mother spreads tinsel and places a plastic crèche on a window sill. Oleanders bloom brilliantly but are poisonous when eaten; a young woman pierces the flesh of her hands with safety pins to contain incomprehensible feeling. Such full embrace of life's paradox achieves a central aim of poetry, to comfort.