Charlie Brice

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His chapbook, All the Songs Sung (Angel Flight Press), and his fourth poetry collection, The Broad Grin of Eternity (WordTech Editions) arrived in 2021. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net Anthology and three times for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta ReviewChiron ReviewThe Paterson Literary ReviewThe Sunlight PressImpspired Magazine, and elsewhere.

Attention

Attention, attention must be finally paid
						to such a person.
						Arthur Miller

A lit Kent with its Micronite filter simmered
between two sausage fingers of his right hand.
When he slithered the fag onto its resting place
in the ashtray, that hand bothered a bourbon
and water. His left hand draped in surrender
over the captain’s chair at the kitchen table.
His left eye drooped—always a sign.

Were these his Guadalcanal days stretched 
into forever? Days of palm trees crashing
to earth, crushing his buddies in their tents,
of monkeys hurling coconuts from tree tops
with uncanny accuracy at the sweat-soaked
heads of GIs? His days in the evacuation corps
where, after bagging what was left of his comrades,
he made sure the right dog tags accompanied
them on their last trip home.

“Do you drink like that, smoke like that, 
because of what you saw? All the death?”

Far away from me, although he hadn’t moved, he smiled.

“What’s up Charlesy?” He sipped his highball. 
“I can see that you’re shaving now. 
Don’t let the razor drift too far up your cheekbones. 
You don’t want hair growing up there.”

To the Ruling Junta in Myanmar

In memory of U Sein Win, Chan Thai Swe,
					Ma Myint Myint Zin, Ko Knet This and
					all the poets murdered by the junta in Myanmar

What do you beat
	when you beat a poet?
Ask Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Corso.
	We poets have always been beat,
whether beatific or cursed, we beat
	the cadence of existence,
its hope, despair, and dreams.

What do you kill,
	when you kill a poet?
A certain “I” enveloped in flesh,
	a boney bonnet that, once cracked,
releases a mysterium tremendum from its grip?

What do you accomplish
	when you eviscerate his corpse?
Don’t you know that his guts, like his syllables,
	glide on thermals of unfettered breath?

What do you jail
	when you jail a poet?
A body, some bones,
	but you can’t imprison liberty.
Freedom is the tablet
	upon which poets pen their lines.

What do you burn
	when you throw gasoline
on a poet and light him on fire?
You can’t incinerate inspiration.
Long after flames on flesh are extinguished,
and governments rise and wither,
a poet’s words burn their way through history.
Mere death is hardly the matter.

Night of the Iguana

On the bathroom floor, can’t move my left side. 
I think it’s my left side. Maybe it’s someone else’s 
left side and my left side is fine.

The party’s rockin’. I was rockin’—
five or six vodkas and Diet Sprite (have 
to watch my diabetes), a few joints.

I was writing a poem in my head.
	Far from the abyss, it went, I stand...

I’ll just get up and...  I can’t. Goddam, it is my left side.
Did I mess myself? I can’t move to... 
I can’t feel anything down there.

Help! Help me! Please. Help!
There’s no words. I can’t get anything out.
I’ll have to wait. Someone will notice I’m gone.
Someone will have to piss. I’ll wait.

What’s that scraping? What...Jesus Christ, it’s a shrunken dinosaur.
It looks like someone boiled its face. A fuckin’ iguana! 
Who has a fuckin’ iguana in their bathtub?

I must have broken a towel rack when I fell.
He’s using it as a bridge. His way out.

How did the rest of the poem go? 
Far from the abyss I stand...
something about leafmeal, 
something about the brindled plain.

Oh god, I’m the poet in the play, the old man who 
searches for an ending to his poem, for the genteel 
southern words that will bring peace,
and when he gets there he...

That ugly monster is coming toward me.  
They say that, once they bite, they don’t let go—
even when you cut the fuckers in half.

Far from the abyss I stand...

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