Two Poems

Allen Braden


In his bleary memory she poses
like an immaculate mannequin,
her eyes pimentos, joints frozen
in a gesture he's grown to know.

Loss is like a bluebottle fly
buzzing around in a mug of bourbon.
She'll come back. Any minute,
he keeps telling himself.

One day pours into the next
but he can still see her.
A dark square nailed to the wall.
A portrait taken down for good.


Everything necessary to maintain
every foundation ever built so far
is found simply by fondling the latch,
easy as recalling a less-than-fond past,
and then by handling each orderly tray
of tools too simple to call hand tools:
a stick of chalk meant for marking
the measure of almost anything
from concrete to an assortment
of planks sorted out as useless;
that yellow Stanley measuring tape
used to measure what used to matter;
and one lead stone to plumb the line,
much like a fisherman's sinker or fob,
and gauge the point of vanishing.

Reach much deeper to find those
that fit the hands perfectly
of any man who constructs
a reluctant living with his hands:
the square a clumsy boomerang
perfect at setting the record straight;
a claw hammer meant to hammer
whatever it can to your expectations
then claw them apart on second thought;
and finally, ultimately, the spirit level
with its single, jaundiced eye
leveled expectantly in your direction
and rolling whenever you breathe,
the only bubble in the world
that won't burst at the slightest breath.

"Your Life As Found in a Toolbox" previously published in Poetry Northwest.

Allen Braden

Allen Braden has received an NEA fellowship, an Artist Trust fellowship, the Witness Emerging Writers Prize and the Grolier Poetry Prize. He has published in The New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, Bellingham Review, Southern Humanities Review and Colorado Review. His work is online at Brevity, Switched-on Gutenberg, Literary Salt, Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism, and Arbutus.