November 2001

Joel Brouwer


Joel Brouwerís first book of poems, Exactly What Happened (Purdue University Press, 1999), won the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and the Larry Levis Reading Prize. His second collection, Centuries, will be published by Four Way Books in 2003. He has held fellowships from the The NEA and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. His poems and essays have appeared in AGNI, Boston Review, Chelsea, Massachusetts Review, Paris Review, Parnassus, Ploughshares, The Progressive, Southwest Review, and others. He lives in Carbondale, Illinois, and teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University.

Your brother has leukemia. Carve marble. The elections were rigged. Write a villanelle. A girl shivers in streetlight, takes off her mittens, pulls a silver yo-yo from her pocket. Dogs bark behind a fence. Use oil on wood. Consider pace and breath while choreographing your divorce; you will have to move through it forever. Two men in green fatigues tie a woman flat to a table. One has a rubber hose, the other a pliers. A third man arrives with sandwiches and a Thermos. A body has soft and hard parts, like a piano. Music comes from where they meet.




I bring "The Dead" to read in my cubicle but Nurse says, No novels. I protest: It's a novella! She rolls her eyes. I'm wondering where subjects go once an experiment's over. Did Pavlov's dogs get names and loving homes? Did Lorenz eat his geese? The buzzer buzzes. Now I press the blue lever twice and make twenty bucks, or the red ten times for a hit. My summer job. Thirty per visit, fifty if I skip the dope. Joyce said, A man of genius makes no mistakes. Is it really an experiment if you already know what will happen?




At dawn we painted slogans on bedsheets. It was still dark: we couldn't see what we were saying. At the demonstration we smoked joints behind a Dumpster like it was a party. A man was dancing with a flag, a woman was screaming at a flag, the flags were introduced, hit it off, walked off together holding hands. The man and woman shrugged and caught a cab. Cops floated through the crowd on horses, giving Latin lessons and collecting teeth. And later we slept in the sheets we'd waved at the cameras, our convictions flaking off in brittle red splinters.




Joel Brouwer: Poetry
Copyright © 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 18The Cortland Review