Poems 2005 – 2008


All of these poems were published in my chapbook Sackcloth and Ashes (2008).


Naming Things


We did not know what waited. No one

but us and those trees. You wanted to teach me

the names, to show me a spring. You even saved

my drowning dog! Slipped so easily


into the glove of hero. But I could feel

your caution harden as we stepped close,

the way your air grew heavy

and clenched, like a shell you couldn’t


discard. How the womb of your mind

turned in on itself, snug in its woolen

fear. Couldn’t you see how singular, how

auspicious that moment? Couldn’t you choose


just once, to be brave?  Nothing could wedge

a gap between the rings of your life, so tight

and deafening, a border-patrol psyche.

The decision of a man to flee.


There was no place for us to go that day,

that time. I draped my arm around you,

asked of your ancestors—willed you

to turn my way, to seize a chance


forever. You were unreachable. Yet time,

all that time, and I still stand, one arm frozen

around you. You flew in the manner

of a bird. You can return in the manner


of a bird—my arm outstretched for miles,

for months. You can gather courage.

You can gather courage.

I will teach you the name for this.


{Tricia Gates Brown}


Almost Healed


Winter, I drop by.

Your home a roman catacomb, you subdued

with a cold, awakened

at evening, eyes and shoulders a droop


of defeat, let down by your body—that refuge

from emotion, humanity, sexuality. We sprawl

on the floor before your fire, drink tea.

No, I sprawl. You sit upright in a stiff-


backed chair, at first. The more stalwart for all

your desire. We tell stories as slowly

you fold. The weight of reproach like a yoke lifted

as you slip into a stretch on the rug. 


The change at once familiar, at once so charged!

Your old transmutation: dread blue to

vermillion. You are Ireland; it is spring;

trees are dancing. I remember this.


Your stories: Childhood—you were small.

Stuck in a ditch on a day so hot boots

melted to your feet! Or how you took that old

donkey out for a spin! I had never seen


you laugh—not like that. Had never seen

such joy, such resurrection on your face. You shone

with the newness of a thousand infant tears.

It was almost birth. You almost believed.


We were almost healed.


{Tricia Gates Brown}



I saw a vision of us in the way

I sometimes see things. Before I knew you.

Was it a heart’s way to know loss,

to prepare for its arrival, or was it a finger


pointing—go there? All I know is I came

to love you.  More than I had loved

as a woman, I came to love you.

You were washing a truck. I stood


at a window. A bell tolled on the plain

of premonition and I let stones fall

that led me to you, adrift on fate,

particles of gold in a windstorm.


{Tricia Gates Brown}




You made the ocean more beautiful,

the downy light, air draped and wide,

unearthly ground beneath my feet. All more


luminous beside you. You wore your blue

hat, a fleece vest and sneakers, ran with

your dog, soccer-kicking a bottle to


fetch. How you looked, boyish and blithe—

a masterpiece against that radiant scrim.

I told you your smile was the most


beautiful thing in the world to me, and you

closed your eyes, shook your head no,

told me to look around. The typical


deflection. I tried to keep from holding you,

from building a future out of nil, but just

to be there, sand shifting under foot,


sea-air in my lungs, you breathing beside

me. We turned back where mammoth stones met

headland, dwarfed by the cliff before us. A


confluence of water, sand, rock, and painted earth.

We had walked to this place many times, a place

so beautiful, where we always turned around


and walked away.


{Tricia Gates Brown}




On mornings I wake slowly, time not yet

a rattle at my ear, the whispers of this house

enfolding me. I rest in a pretense of light

and dream you to me. Tall twin bed,


body aloft in a sling of comfort, waves

pulling me in and out of sleep as love billows

and quakes—my heart a thin sheet on a line.

Some note of hope turned loose


in your voice, some unguarded look,

the feel of your nose rubbing up and down

mine. I am that sheet, lifted and shaken,

lifted and shaken.


{Tricia Gates Brown}




I had never done that. Stopped

mid-sentence and asked, Can I pray?

We sat on driftwood under a cupola of

stars, squatted at someone’s abandoned fire,

and where I took your hand, we blazed.

Eyes closed I prayed—no words,

no sound, holding you up to the being

burning inside of me, to the hand

of the universe outstretched like that

of a woman caressing a child’s head as it

leans, soft and sweaty, against her leg.


Sackcloth and Ashes


Lift the sackcloth of midnight

and find me, like bread rising for the morning

meal, old dormitories of longing

adorned for laughter’s revival.


You are not so famished you cannot

eat. Not so tired your hands can’t ring

the dawn bell. Your heart, even sleeping,

shakes the rafters. Ashes of old lives—


let the wind take them. I smell sweet-peas

on the breeze blowing in. The whole

night, full of one blossom’s scent.


While you were drifting, musicians have tuned.

While you were crawling, the dreary sky opened,

a stippling of stars, and wrote our names.


{Tricia Gates Brown}




You came to my play.  The playwright’s date,

a role you anticipated like wearing a cilice.

The sore thumb—your vision of it,

as if the lack you saw in yourself would blaze

across your face like a banner ad: no papers,

no college, no status. I made you come.

I would wear you like a string of pearls. I

wanted you there, wanted to share

the time with the man I loved, love.

Did you already know what you would do

the next day?  That it would be the last time

I would see you for months? Your face alight

when you greeted me. Your embrace

enveloped me and you held my hand.

Had you planned it ahead—your last parting

gift? My severance check?

I held you on my arm as we departed,

bathed in a swath of moonlight. This

is bliss, I thought, not knowing that moment

was all of it.  En todo.  The last note before symphony’s

end, a strain pregnant with the power of the whole,

yet mournful. Applause swells,

a volcano of longing, beseeching, beckoning—

the cycle of ovation and encore. You hugged me,

fervently as your greeting, and when we kissed

I saw your eyes milky

with love. Shoulders parted, then arms,

then hands. A slow rending. As if we both knew

it was not just goodnight,

but goodbye.


{Tricia Gates Brown}


Moon Poem


Friday night, one week till Christmas.

Alone with the moon, full

outside my window. Moon, ardent


love of a grandmother’s, great-great-

grandmother’s ghost—sacred, timeless

entourage, ripe seeds of joy.


I pull a string, extinguish my lamp,

sit with the moon one hour, face

upturned. Wind beats my house


like a widower drumming his wife’s

still coffin. But I am content.

No place I long to be. No face


I want to turn and see

but the moon.


{Tricia Gates Brown}

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