#17: The Way Water Moves, by John Brehm
About the Author
John Brehm was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and educated at the University of Nebraska and Cornell University. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, The Southern Review, Epoch, Poetry Northwest, The Best American Poetry, 1999 and other journals. A recipient of fellowships from Oregon Literary Arts and Yaddo, he has taught at Cornell, Emerson College, and Portland State University. He now works as a freelance writer and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
About the Chapbook
"This is a lovely collection, humble as it stands, hat in hand, before the ages; generous and accommodating toward its readers; and altogether free of cleverness, that poison that affects so much contemporary poetry. Brehm's close looks into old age and decline are as honest and clearly put forward as any I have read, anywhere, anytime." —Ted Kooser author of Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2000
"The plain surface at first conceals the craft of John Brehm's poems,and then a phrase startles with its wisdom and we see into the depth. These poems go down where the pain is and rise to a vivid sense of the past washing up against the present. Their stories sometimes draw blood, as well as humor, portraits of those who gave us our absurd and dangerous, sometimes exhilarating, world." —Robert Morgan, author of Topsoil Road and Gap Creek
From the Chapbook
When My Car Broke Down
I was somewhere in Utah or Wyoming,
somewhere in the high inhuman deserts,
in the thin blue flame of wavering air,
bluffs of red earth scorched and
stratified on the horizon. I had stopped
to admire the desolation, to smoke
a cigarette and consider that ten thousand
years ago this was all under water,
that strange fish would have swum
through the space my eyes now occupied;
before that ice, and before that
something else again, unimaginably alien.
The Buddhists say First thought best thought,
but my first thought when I saw the steam
billowing up from under my car was:
if I just keep driving, maybe it will go away.
After all, I was moving three thousand miles
not to "escape" my problems but to put
a nice distance between them and me.
A problem has to be fierce to travel that far.
My second thought was to stare at the engine
for a while. I leaned over and looked
down into it as into the bowels of a ship
or the cranium of some fantastic beast.
And recalled how my father tried to teach me
about cars. Mostly he had me hold
the light for hours and mostly I studied
the back of his head, turning over the words
he said and knowing even then I'd never
understand. The blood would drain
from my arm and I'd prop it up
with my one free hand to keep from
caving in or betraying my halfheartedness.
Even then I was hopelessly afflicted
with the disease of the Wandering Mind.
Even then I was dreaming myself
across magical landscapes, just like this,
and learning all he had to teach me
about standing rooted to one spot,
wishing I were somewhere else.