Wendy Brown-Baez - words to light our way
afternoon poetry reading
she reads poems. he listens.   
she speaks of a poet’s life, he nods.
I notice the nod, the look that passes                                                       
between them like an unbroken thread.
I notice the thread, the unbroken
look, the red juice of heart blood spattered
on his hands from her words, the star
that appears on her forehead from his look.
I think, how sweet. I am envious.
I know they are married. I imagine
them at the altar, a poem split into two
voices like the shank bone
broken to conform the eternal
covenant of freedom.
“You will be my people. I will be
your God,” He told Abraham, bondaging
souls for the trek across the desert
to come. “I will be your woman,
I take you as my man,” I imagine her
repeating in front of a long line of ancestors
holding their breath to see it accomplished.

she is not young any more, like me
and I do not know how many nights
she paced, like me, and how many
lovers she kissed and discarded before
this one. a man who loves to
hear her mouth forming words
in the intricate measure of hidden
meaning and sudden story.
I do not know if he had wives
before this one. writes the alimony
check with one hand gripped to the
regret or love spilling out of his insides
like an enchilada casserole with too
much cheese. I do not know how they
found each other whether it was
spontaneous combustion
or a soft remembrance like a dream
on the tip of the mind’s edge  
but I count the nods, the looks, the pride
I sense coming though the pores of his
skin. I can only see the back of
his head but I already know—
just as the famished
knows what the diner ate by the tilt of
satisfaction in his chin, just as the enslaved
knows what stars would fall
into her hands if she but
slipped off the chains.

 © Wendy Brown-Baez
from Ceremonies of the Spirit

 Tangled Up in You
the necessary fire
the necessary birds that fly from
your hands as you weave
your words into my air
sitting too close not to touch
but determined that we won’t
unable to pass that last
semi-colon, unable to
break free of the
cocooned denial because
the flame might ignite
not only the two of us
and the very room we sit in
but the entire block
of neighbors going about their
day, the woman stirring her
vegetables, the laundry spinning
while the young man folds the
first load into neat blue piles
the child running up the steps
behind his dog, all burnt
to a shocked crisp.
Now we are tangled in
hidden meanings
and secret signals. Words make
sense for a split second
only to dance away at the least
crinkle on your face as you grin
at my unexpected boldness
and the blush I am trying so
hard to conceal has landed
in front of us on the shining
surface of the coffee table
and we pretend not to see it.
We are attempting to tango
and I am hoping not to
embarrass you by tripping in
my sexy stacked heels, the ones
I wanted you to notice
the ones I tucked away
suddenly behind my plain
black skirt.
©--Wendy Brown-Baez
from Ceremonies of the Spirit


The Day in Baghdad
She whispers, “Please, Doctor. My child.
Must be born now.” She is unaccustomed
to begging, unaccustomed to demanding,
her belly swells with life
urging her to push her way
through the streets, the heat,
the dry dust of fear
clogging her throat.
He is a doctor. His pledge
to save. A woman
comes to him and
pleads. He frowns.
“Your time is not yet.”
Yes, she nods, frantic--
here she places a hand
on his lapel, yanks hard
surprising him with her
sudden strength, sudden
courage—this hand is
ferocious in wanting
what he can give—a birth
before the thundering collapse
of the city into rubble
a child’s first breath
in the deadly stillness
before hell erupts and swallows her whole
making her lose her tenacious
grip on
giving life to her unborn
child destined to taste his
first milk from breasts
swollen with fear
destined to cry unheard
amongst the wailing of a nation
unable to find
She is not going to leave until
the doctor agrees. She knows the panic
that consumes her
is not as great as
the shattering she expects. She cannot
give birth and shatter
at the same time. One of us
will die, she thinks
but it is not actually a thought
only an impulse 
to life. To save her own
and to save her child’s
even if they will only be reduced
to bone
in the end.

 © Wendy Brown-Baez
from transparencies of light

what he found in the garbage
a spatula melted into the shape of Saturday morning pancakes
the cast iron skillet shimmered with rust
one barbeque splashed apron, checkered, gifted, crumbled, torn
one feather duster mugged with dirt
brown boots with split soles, one crumbled sock textured to the grain
twenty CDs scratched and deformed, grinning with melodies memorized and worn
a date book with a broken spine, pages slashed with black, others rimmed with red
two cracked wine glasses, one beer stein as silvery as drunken apologies
a shirt pocket ripped from the pen that signed the divorce papers
a black shoe polish can, rimmed and empty
at the bottom a silver chain, when he pulled it out, a locket
shaped to the size and condition of his heart, tarnished with sin
false bravado, fake accord, lies and sleepless nights, recriminations
born from guilt, secret tears, messages scattered on smoke
one flattened brown cardboard box left under the stairs, a chaos of cleaning products under the sink, a hornet’s nest by the kitchen window, a lock without a key, a crushed dream, a dance of fire in his loins, a kiss left upon his pillow, an urge to bellow,
a walk to the sea and throwing his ring into the deep, a walk to the edge and falling into the wishing well of regret, a drink of forgetfulness, a hang-over of remembering, and then
lifting his face to the rain
and starting all over again

© Wendy Brown-Baez 
from Ceremonies of the Spirit

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