Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Sunlight Press, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, Mudfish 12, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.
Was it because the wind blew
so loudly on the barren prairie that
thought went missing in the gale?
Was it the emptiness and largess—
men in baggy suits, women’s circle
skirts, so many blubbering through
the prosperous fifties? Was it because Ike
and Khrushchev were threatening a last
dance in a mushroom cloud?
Was it because this young guy from Kilgore,
Texas grew up where it was so flat and dusty
that either you drank all the time,
made friends with a cow, or gave your heart
to something so completely that it became
the very form of your soul?
Surely that’s all we had in common: emptiness,
ubiquitous dust, and calamitous wind. Still,
I shared with this man a gushing love
of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov and
the Russian spirit—a romance of music
that let us survive ourselves.
Returning to Earth
In Returning to Earth*,
Jim Harrison’s character, Donald,
climbs into his own grave while
a relative administers a lethal potion.
He was terminally ill as we all are,
which was Jim’s point, and felt that death
was nature, not at its finest,
but at its essence.
When Jim Harrison died
a friend found his body
on his studio floor, a pen
lodged in his hand. A poem
he’d abandoned by dying
on his desk.
My father-in-law, Ben Alexander,
discovered the seventh clotting factor
of the blood in the thirties. He was
a passionate scientist, but also
a passionate violinist. His brother
Joseph was a composer and pianist.
They loved playing together.
One evening in 1978, after playing
Beethoven’s Spring Sonata with Joseph,
Ben put down his fiddle and died.
The Tibetan Monk, Sogyal Rinpoche,
writes that we only know two things:
We are going to die and we don’t know when.
I would add two more: We don’t know
whether our death will be a good one or a bad one,
and we don’t know that final song,
that final poem partly unwritten.
*Jim Harrison, Returning to Earth, New York: Grove Press, 2007