Two Poems

The Bird and The Horn


What summoned the small thing? Dark
light surrounded us, the wretched
sweet bird on Swan Ave. open winged
into the windshield, Bianca gasped
but I didn’t stop, my mother
about to go back under or just coming out
of it, the whole summer passed without
her remembering any of it, my own
memory all thin curtains and paper
cups of pills and juice and her face
disfigured anew each time. Mass Pike
traffic backed up to Island Pond
Cemetery, buses heading towards
Chapin St. School where the teachers
discussed a tree to be planted
in her memory in the parking lot
even as the school is planned
to be torn down.

Driving with my father, music
plays from my phone through the car
—when every aspect of a song,
its name: Tonight at Noon,
its cover art: out of the abstract
a face comes into focus, each
note seems to conspire
to aggrandize a moment
already out of control:
a rattling tambourine, Mingus
running a hard bop line
on the double bass, the piano
strides along with him,
and the brass, along with a wild
voice, play within a strange fantasy
until those horns take the lead
with a melody that is
as much counter as
on point. Burnett Road
becomes I-291, the swerving
rapturous music stops
for a phone call coming through
the sound system, my father
shoots through a red light, she’s
waiting in the ICU,
she asked
for you
—don’t want to miss
her, we didn’t that day—more
strings and horns and drums
and cancer ward nurses
who loved my mother
in her malady: these calm
angels holding their horns
before the judgement—they
said they would take care
of her—I believed them
but I misunderstood.
We shot down the freeway
and what was to arrive
would not slow down.


Yet not to thy eternal resting place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent.

William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis”

When compost turns from smelling rank to sweet; of a soil becoming fertile

from the Bureau of Linguistic Reality


In the duplex on Booth St.,
a concrete-brick building
painted a ghosting yellow,
the fifth-grade teacher
who taught down the hall
from my mother brought a VHS
tape to test my science
knowledge for reasons
never explained to me
—casement windows propped open
and few cars down the gravel
lane. The video begins with
a stationary time-lapsed close-up,
a view of vegetables so still
one hardly notices the heirloom
tomato tilting to its side,
carrots thinning and browning out
as the red, orange, and greens desiccate
into the table save stem ends,
husks, and mold. Dr. Koscher
stopped the tape and put on her
quizzing voice to ask,
“What did you just see?”


How do they do it, those who make
a sweetness out of death? Going back
to the centuries-old graveyard
by the church I grew up in,
Lt. Isaac Brewer (1742-1788)
with an epitaph reading,

With gliding fire an evening Star
Streaks the autumned skies
Shook from its Seat it darts away
And in an instant dies.

It is growing dark. The old
church parking lot still has
the hoop with nothing
but a backboard, and my mother
isn’t waiting for me here.
I watched the drapery of her couch
wrap about her, I saw her lie
down, I saw the wind push her
into a breathless narrow house
and then move through the graves
and around me. If it were trying
to say something, I understood it as much
as my daughter stringing together
syntax, tone, and nonsense, a various
language turning, thinning, and decomposing
until the earth again grows sweet.

Ben Pease is a poet and multi-disciplinary writer who is dedicated to fostering a more accessible literary community in Vermont and beyond. He is the author of the full-length poetry collection Chateau Wichman: A Blockbuster in Verse (Big Lucks Books), a Dungeons & Dragons adventure module set on the Ruth Stone property called The Light of Mount Horrid (Ghost in the Forest Games), the hybrid illustrated edition Furniture in Space (factory hollow press), and several chapbooks. He is the Executive Director of the Ruth Stone House, Communication Coordinator at Otter Creek Engineering, and book designer for various enterprises. He lives in Brandon, VT with his wife, Bianca Stone, and their daughter, Odette.