Posted by: Rachel Mallino | May 23, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #7 – Karen Brennan

About the (dys)functional poet:

Karen Brennan’s last book of poems, The Real Enough World, was published by Weslyean in 2005.  She is a professor in the creative writing program at the University of Utah and, since 1992, has been teaching at Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for writers.



The Nanny stole a tweed suit from Banana Republic, a cashmere sweater (pale grey, my favorite), a bite-sized digital camera, an Ipod, a sheet of checks and other things that I have not yet discovered missing.  She was a blond girl with a wandering eye, almost black in color, an eye that rotated wildly, like a little agitated wheel in the upper right-hand corner of her face, whenever she spoke.  Because of the eye, I was tempted not to trust her, which made me decide to especially trust her because if we all went around suspecting a person with disability, where would we be?  The answer I now know is that we’d be richer by almost one thousand dollars.


He said he felt as though he were slipping away.  Every day, more slippage.  For example, a little chunk of his foot may go, then a fingertip, a follicle of hair, a few cells from the earlobe.  At first, nothing discernible to the naked eye, in other words, nothing the average person would necessarily miss in the course of events.   I did not miss these things, these portions of him.  He was still dear to me at that point.  Eyelashes, an elbow, the shiny cavity formed by breast bone and rib cage-these went eventually.   Likewise, hair.  Then, on a blustery morning, the entire torso and, after soup, both legs and a hand.  How can you still love me?  he wailed.  The wail was next to go, becoming vapor, then salt, which I used (still use) sparingly.


Red shouldered hawk sits on a wire waiting for the doves which he will kill.  We sit in the car watching the hawk await its prey.  Red shouldered hawk, very stationary, very beautiful, very noble, with a bold slice of orangey red on each shoulder.  We light  cigarettes and observe.  We observe the spaces in the sky which are empty.    We observe the smoke filling the car’s interior like an image (such as the hawk) fills the caverns of our imaginations.  With our usual composure, we observe the ruthlessness of nature:  one creature about to swoop upon another.  Red-shouldered hawk snaps his head to the left.  In the distance, the coo-roo coo-roo of doves about to descend. Is all life so misguided? we wonder.  We light fresh cigarettes.  The real show is about to begin.



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