Brad has been writing and publishing poetry for 20-odd years in publications including The Avocet, Bellowing Ark, Blind Man's Rainbow, Clark Street Review, Colere, Modern Haiku, Nomad's Choir, Poetry East, and Willow Review. We are slowly beginning to add his poems to this site. Please keep checking back for more. All poems c. Brad Vickers
POETRY READINGS I'VE ATTENDED IN NEW YORK CITY
I saw Robert Bly,
telling a member of the audience,
who couldn’t hear him, even though,
he was very close to the microphone,
Robert said, “I am not going to speak
any louder than this!
And I am sorry if you cannot hear!
Maybe you should lean forward more,
or use a cotton swab!”
When I saw
the ever-so-popular, Billy Collins,
the theme was to read from other poets.
So he started to read Emily Dickinson.
When he finished the first poem and before
starting the next, he laughed to himself,
took off his glasses and announced,
“I’m Sorry! My ego is too big.
I have to read one of mine!”
The audience cheered longer than his poem.
I was sitting with Gerald Stern,
where he was waiting
to go up and read after a young poet,
who was getting deep
into the murkiness of his words.
I asked Gerry if he needed anything,
water or soda. He motioned
to come closer to him and he softly said,
“Yeah! Get me a gun so I can shoot this guy!
He’s terrible! Bad poetry! Awful!”
I was listening to Joy Harjo read,
Which was darn near close to perfection.
She ended her reading by singing “acappella”
A pretty song with one word, “love.”
I saw Stanley Kunitz
when he was ninety-seven,
three years before he died.
And without any introduction,
he slowly walked up the staircase,
leading to the stage and without
help of a cane, walked soft and easy
to the podium.
He was greeted with
such ear-deafening applause,
that I never heard any poet,
before or after, receive.
He tapped the microphone gently and said,
“Hi, I’m Stanley Kunitz!”
And at that moment, he lived forever.
A DAY AT HOME DURING MANY MONTHS
OF THE CORONAVIRUS
From my hillside home
I breathe with the river below.
Every breath is caught
grazed by water and fish.
The hill lifts the trees and plants
closer to the stars
I watch them grow before my eyes.
Bones spotlessly cleaned of fur
of an unknown mammal,
are scattered around my yard
by things of the woods
that come out at night.
My ears are exposed to a driving wind
that is not visiting
the road to my house.
My mind often wants to understand
the silence that stands around
waiting to speak.
BURNING LEAVES, 1962
My father and I
would take the cremation of leaves
that were in small metal buckets
over to the dead garden
and spread their ashes
over the sand-colored grass and vines.
My father would say the quickest of eulogies,
“This will make the coming Spring and Summer green.”
Fifty-eight years later it is Autumn again
and I now live in a new era
of speedy leaf blowers with trailers
quickly carting leaves away,
not leaving much time to rake up a past —
my childhood Autumn — a season of rituals:
The meticulous raking of ankle-deep leaves
that the north wind shook off the branches
of our trees and hedges.
We stored them in tall reed baskets
like Egyptian urns, then watched over them
like sentry guards.
We waited for windless days
to haul them to the top of the driveway
and shape them into mounds.
Then I would watch my father
sprinkle lighter fluid like the “holy water”
of an old gentle priest.
Then he would strike the long wooden match
that made red flames dance
in a Dervish frenzy.
We would then stand guard again over the mound
until it becomes a pile of white ash.
During every Autumn my eyes would tear
from the smoke of burning leaves.
The inside walls of my nose
stung like iodine on a wound.
But it didn’t stop
the overwhelming joy I had —
A young boy helping his father.
MY ONE AND ONLY SUNSHINE
When the sun shines on a beach,
the souls of rock and stone simmer.
Their volcanic hotnesss deeply massages
the naked body.
When the sun shines on a tree,
shade swings from branch to branch,
creating a room to sit in.
When the sun shines on me,
my blood — part animal, part man —
swims with light, sings with light,
even in the darkness.
“I am here for you!” A voice whispers,
as I look out onto the horizon,
covered in the green of tree crowns.
I am standing on the upper deck of my home,
looking to see where the voice comes from.
I couldn’t tell if it was human or animal,
as I hear the whispering voice
trail off into the distance.
Later tonight in my silence,
I will call on “The Graces” and “The Muses.”
With pen and paper I will ask which one
had whispered to me, then,
ask the availability of marriage.
AT THE EDGE OF SOME MARSHLAND
The monstrous act of winter — cold,
echoing through cavernous trees,
comes to an end.
Surrounding the marshland, ice patches
lie about like broken panes of glass.
Some, smashed into little shards,
reflect in the sunlight as would
stars in the night sky.
At the edge of a season, a door opens,
windows lift, and huge energy,
restless and determined, comes in.
It cleans house.
At the edge of the water, beaks, snouts, and whiskers,
untangle reeds and wild grass
from their sleep.
A fly emerges.
Then it begins.
THE WIND AND THE EAGLE
The wind is at war.
Like an axe it tries
to split a rock.
It tries to raise sand;
It tries to make waves;
pummel the earth.
The eagle leaves its nest
to be with his brother, the wind.
Its wings will embrace it.
All will be calm.
COMET NEOWISE, JULY 2020
The towering sky above my head,
blue with scattered puffs of clouds
that are serene and calm,
has turkey vultures and chimney swifts
coasting and gliding on the thermals
with no song heard but the grace
of their choreographed flights.
To sail that high and lose one’s self
in a bird’s eye view enhances
the wonder of it all; Earth!
My skin breaks out in goosebumps
thinking of the times looking out
from a passenger jet’s window
with land below spread out
like a banquet table of desserts,
or my childhood rides in the carnival swing
that had you sailing high
in a circular path above the landscape.
(I preferred the ride at night
when I felt like an owl gliding
in the dark stillness of a summer’s evening.)
We on Earth nibble away at life.
To see a comet only seen
every seven thousand years
is beyond wonderment.
You cry out for your heart
that breaks over the songs and stories
you will never know.
It seems I have spent a life
drifting and floating
in a shadowy dream
of my childhood garden.
Memories of summer:
The clatter of afternoon wind
blowing through trees — their leaves
shimmering in the silver light
as I sat inside
the swollen shadow of an elm
beside a quiet road
watching the occasional truck and car
pass-up my little card table
of proud harvests.
No one ever stopped.
The passing traffic was an omen —
a straw in the wind under gathering clouds
warning me to make my presence
better known in the world.
So I wrote poems, stories, and picked up
a guitar and sang, trying to find acceptance
from the world I lived in.
I have accomplished this now.
I have to thank the omen I saw back then.
But the pressure of life as “a creative”
had produced another omen —
foreshadowing its handwriting
on the wall with question marks
hanging on harsh periods
(An uninteresting footnote among the uninterested.)
I feel I have never been as happy
as that time in the garden
along a quiet road, sitting
under the elm deep in anticipation
of someone to stop and visit me.
THE ASS AND THE PACHYDERM
(A folktale For Americans)
On a remote island,
far away from the rest of the world,
lived a large population of humans
with only two animals:
the ass and the pachyderm.
They shared a peaceful co-existence
where both animals took turns
serving the community.
The ass gave rides to the children,
the elderly and the poor.
It stood patiently for artists
as they draped their easels
over the animal’s back
so they could paint landscapes.
The ass passionately listened
to musicians and singers.
Actors and poets paid homage to it.
The pachyderm helped the businesses and commerce.
It transported goods and cargo,
it helped clear land for new enterprises.
It was very patient with all industrial activities
and never forgot how to please the corporates.
But as the years passed,
the ass and pachyderm
became old and tired
and were failing to serve
the community well.
The public became disappointed.
Soon it was discovered
That another animal had been living on the island;
It was strong and healthy
but it could never provide
the service of the ass and pachyderm.
At most it could only feed a few
with its eggs.
The people took this as a sign
to become independent — to
help find a rooster for the hen — to
work towards managing
upcoming flocks that would bring comfort
in knowing that if their arts and businesses failed,
at least there would be food for thought.
The island now celebrated the chicken
and all were happy.
But one day it was reported that frogs
were appearing along the shoreline.
Not your everyday frogs, but talking frogs.
They were annoying to some people.
Seems they only wanted to talk
about things green.