Quartet for Winds and other poems by Aaron Brame

Quartet for Winds

My mother birthed me in a skyscraper, named me after
the largest city known to the world. Made me a child.

Blessed me with a song from a gramophone, let me live to hear it.
Let me live. So tiny, I barely breathed, my tight chest

smaller than a quail’s, a flame kindled inside,
on the 98th floor. The skyline showed against the sunset

like a dream. I touched my first skin there, drank
a draft of milk, a thousand feet up, dreamed the universe

into being. I descended an elevator that seemed never to cease.
On the ground, I entered into a cathedral and for the first time, looked

up instead of down.

I can glow if I think hard enough.
I remember the bunk bed, the ceiling just out of reach

where I dreamed of songs, and girls
whose names still well on my tongue.

Where are my hands? My teeth? Imagine
them smaller, pretend I can still understand

the longings that urged the night into morning,
morning foretold by the muffled breathing of my brother

one bunk beneath, the sky showing cracks
of yellowy light. Sounds from the kitchen

below. If I look hard enough I can glow
and see it again. I grew once. I could still grow.

You Have One New Message

The tops of our lives are glass now, we all see
everything, the lines of our lives penciled out in black scratches,
the nights we stare into the refrigerator, the interior glow

and almost-silence. We reschedule meetings,
pretend to be stuck in a disconnect, phones lost,
lunch strangers adrift with other faces.

Why complain? Why wonder? No need to run laps
in the mind, excuses like a voice in an empty room.
There are other bars, other meetings, happy hours,

unlost lovers, friends. Smoke a cigarette in the alleyway
alone, flick ashes down a hole of forgotten promises,
Let it lead you back to your kitchen, near midnight.

On the plexiglass shelves, two beers and a lemon.
Let it chase you into this place where the darkness
never enters, where we hover but never land.

To My Son:

The moment you woke from your mother, you gasped
at the atmosphere, pulled the Sunday morning into you,
started your heart with its (breath). It stormed that night, I will never forget
the mighty eruption of winds, opening the incision of your being.

Always consider the world of air piled on top of you,
how thunder and troubled skies impel you on.
You cannot underestimate the eternal suffocation, or stars
that track in slow-motion the berserk weeks of your life.

You’ve arrived in a gasping panic, so live,
and listen to the music of your breath, the dreaming of your night,
the noises that others mistake for God.


The Coinstar Sonnet

Crosslegged on the carpet, we flick nickels
into piles, pinch open five-dollar sleeves,
payday too many nights away, a future
we never counted on spilling through our hands.
We’re scurfing out the silver from a puddle
of copper, stacking quarters in squat towers
four-high, splashing it all back in the glass jar
when it doesn’t add up. (The pennies
we leave for the grocery store machine,
to pour them down its greedy fucking neck,
make sure the bastards shopping the ground beef
aisle can hear our gurgling despair.) They say
each penny costs 1.7 cents to make,
and even this exchange shortchanges us.


First Memory

Mother vacuums. Living room windows
open to the spring sky, Pine-Sol
from the kitchen smells like falling rain.
The machine surges up and back
in the next room, then whirs
down. A gust of wind blows
the curtains inward, like a woman
entering the room, to witness.


Benediction 1

Some depart before dawn.
Some reverberate as basses or fiddles
in an empty room.

A beast in every sky,
above apartment buildings,
parking lots, little league baseball diamonds,

the sun setting in a field of cotton,
the electric grid blinking into darkness.

One leaves Pittsburgh at 9:37 AM to Houston
direct: a shattering whistle.

The flight attendant prays
for no taxi. They crisscross over the black landscape.

Insects in the soil.

Desire. A reckoning of desire. The wheel spins.

The mountain reaches for a memory to find them
colliding into rock faces,

office towers,

power lines, lakes. The rivers flow the wrong way. The waters
that furrow into a wake. The incessance of bees.

The wake of planes descending.


About the author:

Aaron Brame is the former senior poetry editor at the Pinch Journal. He is the winner of Synaesthesia Magazine‘s 2015 poetry contest, and his work also appears in Lumina, Hartskill Review, Kindred, and Tupelo Quarterly. He teaches eighth-grade English in Memphis, Tennessee.