About the (dys)functional poet:
Brent Goodman is the author of The Brother Swimming Beneath Me (2009 Black Lawrence Press). He lives, works, and writes in Rhinelander, WI.
A New Way of Judging Distance
OK, I’ve swept together all the shadows,
nailed the sunlight back to the walls
in bright migrating frames – who needs
furniture? There are days my breath stitches
a long thread into the sky. I should say
that was years ago. I lived alone
and pulled myself so deeply inward
any light appeared dull and haggard
as if tired from a long journey. Please,
take off your coat. Stay with me.
As I pour us both more tea, ignore
the darkness which won’t wash clean
edging your mug. Sorry, I mean mine.
I mean, I misplaced a key, once, and still
can’t find what it opens. Instead
I want to discover a new way of judging
distance – sound, light, thread, song –
by the time you read this, my location
will have changed. The deeper we stare
into the sky at night the older the stars.
It’s like walking backwards while making
slow dumb wishes for the future.
Functional Health Care Questionnaire
Because clumsy days line up
like blue bottles along the sill
you swagger and sway until
wine glasses ring in the cupboard.
Because our bodies must only
strike this world at precise angles
bright as light through glass, some-
times our bones may break.
Tonight you’ll be shown
the ghost of your hand captured on film
while a woman in a lead smock solemnly
records your vitals. Whole years pass
reaching for the railing but finding
only empty dark. The practitioner
who nods at your explanation still
cannot contact your doctor.
The bone sings in its dull socket.
You wait for a long while this way:
alone under fluorescent light,
your arm slung across your waist
like a man cradling almost nothing.
Don’t Make Me
Its 2am and there’s a slouching
gray man pushing an empty baby carriage
down the weather-buckled sidewalk.
Don’t make me vouch for history,
every bad line we refuse
to abandon, worrying
our pencils down
At the end
of this dark drive
where Yahara River
meets the fog-quiet lake,
there are willows
rising from either bank,
dim channel markers glowing
red and green between
two weeping canopies.
Don’t make me push these empty hands
against another thousand years.
Under the distant footbridge,
leopard frogs slowly wind their watches.
(Their fear, I guess, is mine:
each candle-cupped storm
I hesitate in my kitchen
praying the microwave spark awake again
and illuminate my face with its four flashing zeros)
How many lunch hours I unfocused my mind
before the dry-cleaner’s typeset windows,
white dress shirts ascending the jerking conveyor.
The slouching gray man forever strolling his empty child down
this moss-fissured sidewalk. He’s circling my block
as if searching for the beginning. Don’t make
me write him again. My pen
rises and sinks
across white, a