Excerpts from FIGHTING EXILE: A HEART’S RETURN TO MONTANA
What I like about night—
nothing like the day with anatomy edges,
dangling limbs, hefty torsos, grimaces & staring anger,
dirty mirror-colored, smoked, broken horizons.
Night is smooth & continuous ebony silk
eyes sliding along black-only distinctions.
Lace, seams like feeling a bra with eyes closed.
Big-legged skyscrapers, steeples, industrial plants,
femurs crushed, industrial vertebrae pulverized,
jello-ed forms, structural complexes ooze,
white-ish whalebone cities bleach to dusk, darken
to nothing but viscous breezes, camouflaged moon.
Finger telephone poles, power lines, smokestacks,
extended digits fisted, bent, palm flattened
to hot waves, heat escapes fingers like fumes
writing on invisible cool night strand surfaces
with silent sentences punctuated with stars.
Snaking interstates, crosshatched county road nets,
asphalt flypaper trapping rush hour trains of cars
turned to intestines rumble heard but not seen.
Like the night took the body of the day and
surgically removed the bones.
Originally appeared in the NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, University of Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Town smells like barbecue & farts
Rancid steam & dump burning smoke,
Old perfume on sex sweated bodies.
Clouds look like clouds but are disguised
Drugged, low & close like a poisoned pillow,
Ozone holes tethered over main street,
Part of a killing jar for a way of life,
A toxic Macy’s parade with no crowds.
This is the kind of timber town
That fells trees, ends up with stumps,
Every log out has part of a man crucified
Thumb here tacked to cedar bark,
Arm pinned on a Douglas fir,
Leg sandwiched, pressed into plywood,
Stenciled pleas scratched on the log ends
Codes, messages crying for help, but
Foresters minimum wage has been paid,
Profit made, 911 calls no answers at all.
This kind of paper town chips, whittles
At you day by day, pulps, pulp liquors you
Until like hate it digests muscle, soul,
Consumes everything but the redneck.
Takes upright, ends with thin
3D life flattened to one inch by three epitaph.
Even the bark, slash and saw whine
Into Presto logs, Kingsford charcoal briquettes
Dying, dead cremated alive driving
Around in a 4×4 six liter urn.
We all live in pulp town—our capital.
The sun is hung low hammocked in the coming winter south,
Felling great slabs of Ponderosa Pine shadows and light across the highway
Like thousands of piano keys becoming a Cascade highway bar-code strip.
I scan along at 65 mph picking up signals from the asphalt, the mountains,
Steering a grocery cart of feelings, heart and memory laser scanning each,
To value them, add up the costs of life today, so I know what I owe.
I think of my daughter who worked as a grocery checker last summer,
Scanning the stuffing habits of normal hurting crippled hearts from Tacoma
The tampons, feminine hygiene products, National Enquirer
celebrating no pregnancy this month yet pleading for any intimacy,
Wine, beer, cigarettes injected one way or another to deaden the
fears, quiet the loneliness, and let us dig the grave for our dreams
The long on image foods stuffed with fat and carbohydrates,
as if we were trying to glue up every tear duct escape to the
So we could scan in and see like x-rays parts of ourselves.
The products of my life are barricaded, registered and tallied,
Lost marriage, missing in action behind friendly lines for my children,
Debts to lovers, debts to the ideas that have given me mental breath.
I drive only several miles, the car zebra-ing through the strips of shadows,
But I have scanned my life of the cost of what I bought—a lot,
And like any consumer much of what I bought I didn’t need or want.
The treetops tickle the fall sunlight,
My tires keep scanning the shadows,
I feel now as settled as any shadowy thing can.
OTHER WORKS TO ENJOY FROM TERRY BRIX
chiseled from the heart — I
When I first came to Vigeland I had no ventricles,
No left or right auricle, no ascending aorta, caved in vena cava,
Just a cube of jagged stone turkey-stuffed into my rib cage,
Encased in my own body, ribs white heaving prison bars.
Cross the bridge this stone lumping where my heart was
Rushing water sparged oxygen to muscles of dormant feeling.
Circulate around the Monolith, 36 sculptures like a M.A.S.H. unit
Gang incise me, open artery after clotted artery to sensing life.
Fountain flushes clean the valves connecting feelings with hope
Pumping images like millions of red corpuscles to starved muscles.
The wheel of life breaks the logjam in my heart dammed for decades,
Death and fear like pieces of stone chiseled from my heart.
I walked away from this emergency room with a life transplant
This is my way of paying the bill, day by day word by word.
Excerpted from CHISELED FROM THE HEART, by Terry Brix, in cooperation with the Vigeland Museum, Oslo, Norway.