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Posts Tagged ‘James Brush’

The Cattle Egret

May 10, 2013 2 comments

by James Brush

There’s a swagger in the way the cattle egret walks across the streets of this fenced and paved frontier, wingtips looped into his belt buckle. He won’t talk much at first, but if you get him going he’ll spin stories like country songs—beer drinkin’, cloaca kickin’ and trains beyond the horizon. He’ll tell of blue northers ripping down the plains and the time he lit a fire under a mule that hadn’t moved in two days. He waits while you imagine what a burning mule would smell like and then tells how the mule just moved over a couple feet from the fire and stayed put another two days before movin’ on. Usually, though, he just stares out past the high rises planted where longhorns used to graze, dreaming lonely dreams from another time. Maybe he even writes a song or two about the rough and tumble old birds of the past. In the evening, after a long day picking bugs off the backs of settled cows, he sends demos to Nashville and Austin hoping he’ll make it big someday.

glowing orange
the cattle egrets fly off
into the sunset


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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas. He spends a lot of time watching the local city birds some of which can be found in his recent poetry collection Birds Nobody Loves. He keeps a full list of publications at his blog Coyote Mercury.

Categories: Animals in the City Tags:

Notes Made on an iPhone while Rocking My Son to Sleep, July 2011

August 8, 2012 4 comments

by James Brush

How many times to sing “Redemption Song”? The first song I thought to sing him when he needed singing in the NICU. Some other parent sang nursery rhymes in curtained spaces with beeping monitors to metronome the time. Not knowing any rhymes, I went with Marley it stuck and now it’s ours. Quiet, now, he settles in to rocking my voice trails off to mumbles… this song of freedom…

Moonlight, thunder moon streaming in through the live oak, the passing hours marked by moonlight dropping down the blinds

The dogs dream their twitch-footed dreams, the squirrel finally caught — whimpers and low growls

The fan spins
beneath its spider shadow
ceiling jungle

Dim lines trace frames black pictures on the wall beyond the room… I can’t see them but I imagine what they might be — surely not the same images hung there years ago, not at this hour. They’ll have shifted become things I can’t conceive, ideas of things that can’t exist in morning light

Everything is strange now and somehow more easily understood

His breath slows against my shoulder, he sighs much like the dogs, and I watch the late minutes tick through this room of simplest dreams


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James Brush is a teacher and writer. He keeps a full list of publications at his blog Coyote Mercury. He published his first poetry collection Birds Nobody Loves earlier this year. He lives in Austin, TX.

Categories: Fragments Tags:

While Sitting in Church

October 13, 2011 11 comments
Categories: Videos, Worship Tags:

Sentences and Corrections

July 1, 2011 3 comments

by James Brush

The guy from the attorney general’s office
blamed the nouns, sources of all trouble—
people, places, things.

Combined with certain verbs—
assault, distribute, trespass and possess—
these nouns form gangs of complex sentences,
fragments of lives half-lived, and run-ons
rambling through the detritus of car crash lives.

The simplest, though, tell of kids locked up,
looking out at the free, positions of attention
in the parking lot, half-listening
to mockingbirds refining their own syntax,
as they mimic the ringing fire alarm
while we wait to go back inside
where we’ll try, again, writing

sentences that don’t mimic the past,
sentences that aren’t destinies.


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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat, newborn son and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury, where he keeps a full list of publications.

Categories: Imprisonment Tags:

Dear Old Stockholm

April 5, 2011 4 comments

by James Brush

We communicated in images. Flickering moments on dueling monitors. Shoes on cobbled pavement. Clothes rustle in the wind. Wind? We both understand this thing, wind. The colors are suddenly blinding. I can’t even name them. The view of open parkland and a blue pond widens to almost 360 degrees. My stomach drops as the ground falls away, earth tumbling into a pit of sky, images bleeding off the monitors now. We’re flying again. It’s all she thinks about, the only thing she’ll show. I rip the cables from my temples. She flaps them from her wings. We stare at one another across the sterile distance of the research lab. Going nowhere. Again. A white feather floats on the air-conditioned current. We’re as alien and far apart as ever. Three feet away yet separated by species and the awkwardness of the now-severed connection with its illusion of understanding and love. Can she feel it too? She doesn’t blink, her avian eyes as incomprehensible as the machines humming in this lab. I glance at the security cameras and lean in. Please, I whisper, please. Don’t make me leave. I’ll show you everything. Outside, I hear engines and the wind of ten thousand wings beginning to flap.

A flight of egrets
glides toward the setting sun—
the moon rises.


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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury where he keeps a full list of publications.

Categories: Translation Tags:

Night at the Interstate Diner

December 10, 2010 5 comments

by James Brush

I ran in circles that turned into spirals leading me
back to the same crowds I hoped to escape.
These crowds gathered around holes in the ground,
at truckstops and on famous San Francisco street corners
where they offered drugs and hookups. Did you know
a straight line inscribed on a sphere is a circle?
Driving deep into the night chasing headlights
flickering with bugs, the circles became too much
and I sought crowds in muddy-tile interstate diners
offering tired-eyed cigarette and coffee warmth.
Not conversation, rather a simple acknowledgement
that we’re all of us out here, millions, a crowd
dispersed along asphalt lines and stretched so thin
we hardly seem a crowd. But at night, we’re
all in the same place. Tired alone worn out
and looking for others to remind us that we’re
not the last ones left. Out there, beyond the pooling
rest stop lights, there is nothing. Nobody
you’d want to meet. It’s warm here. Stay with us.
Listen to these whispered stories. We’ll all be moving on
come morning, a crowd stretched again to the breaking,
forgetful and perhaps just a little embarrassed
that we needed to come together in the long last night.


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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. He doesn’t mind crowds if the music is good or the game is well-played. A list of publication credits and links can be found here. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury.

Categories: The Crowd Tags:

The Minor Leagues

October 14, 2010 2 comments

by James Brush

Foul Ball Coming

Flying west over the diamond, egrets glow orange in the setting sun as they round second base and head over and beyond third, deep into foul ball territory. It’s good to watch the sky. You might see birds, perhaps an owl. You might see free-tail bats racing through the insect swarms around the stadium lights. You might even see that foul ball coming right at you. Hopefully you have a hat to use for a glove; otherwise, that ball will sting when it smashes into your palm.

The year Andy Pettitte came down from the Astros for some rehab work, the cars were an extension of the first base line, stretching down 79 all the way to the interstate. He stood above the opposition like Goliath facing 9 Davids, but wanting to give them hope, he let them stay in the game until sometime in the 6th when he decided it was over. Then, the only bats we heard were the ones hunting insects in the glow above.

In the minor leagues, we are ladies and gentlemen and respect the good play. Sure, things can get rowdy on Thursday nights when the beers and dogs go for a buck, but stout applause greets any man who plays well. Home runs, doubles, triples, we’ll cheer work well done whether by the home team or the visitors.

Minor league stormtrooper

There are stormtroopers, Jedi knights and even Boba Fett wandering around the stadium. I don’t know why. There could be trouble. A stormtrooper stops near our section, pauses while everyone takes his picture. He looks so real, I worry that he’ll ask to see the papers for my droids and I’ll have to blast my way back to my ship — a real piece of junk, but she’ll make point-five past light speed. Made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, I tell anyone who will listen.

In the front of section 119 almost everyone has a radar gun, held toward home in steady hands, measuring each pitcher’s worth and tallying the results in worn notebooks. These radar guns are windows to the future flashing the potential greatness of up-and-comers in red digital miles-per-hour, but they are also portals to the past documenting the steady irreversible slowing of arms that once threw lightning in the big leagues.

There is a crack, and the crowd silences as the ball sails over the outfield. You can hear the prayers, the screams and cheers waiting on thousands of lips. If the ball falls short, the stadium will sigh. When it clears the wall, the crowd lets go. Did you see that? we all ask whoever’s closest, but they don’t answer because they’re asking the same question. Hats circulate through the crowd, collecting fives, tens (twenties on those one-dollar Thursdays), tips for the batter, that master of physics, who stopped and restarted time with nothing more complicated than a wooden stick.

Stadium lights

Some nights it all comes down to the bottom of the 9th. One more strike and the game is over. Or one good hit — it could go either way. There is nothing else in the world but the pitcher and the batter staring one another down. Even the players disappear as the pitch is released. All that remains is a small sphere hurtling through space toward the batter and a strangely silent crowd that breathes again only when the ball thumps into the catcher’s mitt. There are scattered cheers, and fireworks if it’s Friday, but everyone knows this series will continue tomorrow night.


Click on photos to see larger versions.


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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. He doesn’t mind crowds if the music is good or the game is well-played. A list of publication credits and links can be found here. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury.

Categories: The Crowd Tags:

drylung (videopoem)

August 18, 2010 3 comments

poem from Watermark by Clayton T. Michaels
video by James Brush


watch on YouTubewatch on Vimeo

Tomorrow we’ll begin showcasing poems from each of the finalists in our 2010 chapbook contest, but to kick off the series, we teamed up with regular qarrtsiluni contributor and blogger James Brush to produce a video for a poem of his choice from the winning manuscript by Clayton T. Michaels. We were extremely impressed with James’ first go at the genre two months ago, God Bless Johnny Cash. It turned out that, in addition to being a fine poet, he also has a degree in film.

We have a strong interest in promoting videopoetry, also known as poetry film and cinepoetry — see Dave’s site Moving Poems, for example — so we decided to do this in preference to a more standard book trailer (itself an interesting new genre). Once the book is officially launched on August 30, other filmmakers will also be welcome to explore videopoem possibilities with the author’s permission. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to link to and share this video. And needless to say, we’d love to get more video submissions to our regular themed issues, too. (You can see all the posts in our Videos category here.)

James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds, and teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. His poems have appeared in various places online and in print — see the complete list of publications on his blog. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. He has been fascinated by Martian landscapes since he saw the first Viking images in the mid-1970s.

Visions of a Healthy Planet

February 25, 2010 4 comments

by James Brush

Gauzy cirrus wisps
burn off early with the stars;

a dust-choked noon sky
glows orange like dying leaves.

Desolate and desiccate,
burned by blistering cold,

wind-scoured deserts remember
where water used to flow.

Eroding winds pile dusty sand
in ever-shifting dunes;

in a hazy salmon dusk,
the diminished sun sets blue.

Two moons’ clear light sweeps a sky
under which only robots sleep

beneath one brilliant blue-hued
evening star on whose surface

you’ll find me—in the driveway
out to get the paper, a moment to admire

that ruddy wanderer in retrograde,
that rusty blood drop in the sky.


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James Brush (blog) lives in Austin, Texas where he teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. His poems have appeared in various places online and in print. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. He has been fascinated by Martian landscapes since he saw the first Viking images in the mid-1970s.

Categories: Health Tags:

The Man Who Spoke the Law

October 15, 2009 7 comments

by James Brush

Old folks will tell you there was a time when there was no poetry. Not around here anyway. Maybe back east or some place where time was more available, but breaking this land took all a man had and didn’t leave anything for him at the end. Certainly, no time for pretty words.

Some will even tell you that there was laws against it, but I don’t hold with that story. Still, I had this idea for a poem, back in ’08 or so and I didn’t want to run afoul the sheriff so I figured I needed to have a looksee to find out if there was any laws about poetry one way or the other.

I won’t tell you all my adventures because there were too many and most of them weren’t really worth the telling, but I saw a fair bit of Dallas and Houston and even El Paso on one occasion I’d just as soon forget.

It was in Austin, down in the fluorescent-lit subcommittee caverns beneath the capitol building, where I found my answers. I’d been walking around admiring all that pink granite and the grounds with all the fat squirrels and pigeons and lobbyists and all when I met an old guy mopping the floors after all the senators had left. He’s the one who told me these poems I’m about to share.

He said he found them. Now, I don’t usually go in for poems people say they found, but these two I’m about to relate are the closest I ever come to finding any kind of answer. I guess you could say they were found twice.

He told me, the Texas State Legislature said, “Let There Be Poetry.”

He told me it was all written down in a big old leather-bound book like the ones you might of seen witches reading their spells from in the movies. It was called Texas Administrative Code,

and if you turned those musty old pages over to

Title 19, Part II, Subchapter C §110.31. English Language Arts and Reading, English I (One Credit), Beginning with School Year 2009-2010. (b)  Knowledge and skills. (3) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/

you’d find it.

He closed his eyes and started reciting in a low whisper. He said it was

Poetry.

Students understand,
make inferences

draw conclusions
about the structure

& elements of poetry,
provide evidence from text

to support their understanding.
students are expected to analyze

the effects
of diction

and imagery

(
controlling images,
figurative language,
understatement,
overstatement,
irony,
paradox
)

in poetry.

He stopped saying his poem, and I stood there taking it all in for a long time. I could hear footsteps echoing through those marble corridors like the sound of generations of people coming up from their final resting places just to hear what this janitor was saying, but those footsteps were just regular folks going about their evening, leaving work, unaware that there was some poetry right there in the middle of all that law.

I told him it sounded like that about covered reading poems, but what about writing them. He nodded and told me all those powerful senators and legislators thought of that too and so he shared another one he found, but it was under some different subsections and letters and what have you.

This one was shorter, kind of like one of those Japanese poems that never got a title and  tells you a lot without using very many words so you have a lot of things to think about and maybe don’t know exactly what the writer meant.

write a poem
using a variety of
poetic techniques

and a variety
of poetic forms

He let it sink in  a moment or two and smiled and kind of leaned on his mop a little and told me he might of left some parts out, some commas and conjunctions and parentheticals and whatnot.

I don’t know. And I don’t know if those were any good or not either, but it sounded something like what I might be looking for.

The next morning, I headed back toward home and didn’t stop until I got there.

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James Brush (blog) is a writer and teacher living in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility, and was once a James Michener Fellow at the Texas Center for Writers. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. His poems have been published by Thirteen Myna Birds, ouroboros review, Bolts of Silk, Postal Poetry and a handful of stones. His essays have been published in The Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing and Good Gosh Almighty!

Categories: Words of Power Tags: