Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 2
Fall 2010

[Three Poems]

Brian Turner

Time Life

In all this time, I never lost view of my object, and for 20 years gathered data, sifted and resifted it, conversed with participants on either side, visited the scene and became as familiar with the ground and the circumstances as with my own home.
—Edgar Paxson (1852-1919)
An historian. That’s the first thing I ever wanted to be.
Not a ballplayer (that would come later) or a soldier (that too).
In Fresno, the sisters who lived in the condominium
next door, Denise and Becky, they had a teepee—

a real honest-to-god teepee set up in their bedroom.
I often lay there with Becky, who spoke of marriage
through her wired teeth, her metal leg braces
clanking sometimes when she’d roll over.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the painting—“Custer’s Last Stand,”
near the end of a Time Life book called The Indians.
There’s a photo of Edgar Paxson, the painter, 
in the Montana studio where he spent eight years creating

“The Battle of Little Big Horn,” cavalry sabers and war clubs
nailed to the ceiling above him, his canvas like the surface 
of the teepee in Becky’s room, filling with spent shell casings, 
the air charged with gunpowder, Becky sleeping beside me

the way Troopers of the 7th Cavalry lay staring into death,
the ground littered with the dead around them, the colors
falling, soldiers shooting their mounts to form a breastwork,
the din of the battle diminishing until at last

I began to see myself as one of the Troopers of the 7th,
fully aware that I was on a field where no one gets out alive, 
an alien to this landscape of oil and brush, among the dead
left naked, to be disfigured by the legions of soil.


Trajectories (in Red)

In the late afternoon light, the neighborhood houses stare 
glassy-eyed into the sunset, long-practiced in the art 
 	of meditation, their companions the cypress and the elm,
	each lost in the reverie of dusk in its reddening hues, 

and an old man stands at the railing of his front porch
	like a thought which remains on the tip of the tongue, 
	hesitant, his face and hands bathed in the red light,
	his overalls the color of dead petals when they fall,

and those returning home from work, they leave their engines
	idling in the drive, their doors hinged wide, 
	they are amazed by the expression of light
	their homes blaze in conversation with the sun,

and the lawnmowers have paused in the high grass, too, bicycles 
lying with their wheels still spinning, voices in telephone lines 
	hushed from their crackling hum as the people gather
	to witness this scattering of light, this mysterious red hue

they know they shouldn’t love, but do, their hands in reverence
	touching the sad faces of the houses they live in,
	gently, though the houses stare on unaware, it seems,
	their eyes given too long to sunlight, their retinas burned clean.


The Lean of the Body into the Banking Turn

What isn’t amazing about the pressure
is how the body withstands the lean,
the feel of the air, the ineffable
turned solid as a wall.

What is amazing about the body leaning into the curve
is how space holds the body with such tiny molecules, 
perfectly, tenderly, the embrace 
invisible, the effort tremendous and beyond
comprehension, to care so much
for so small a creature as this.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury