Brian Glaser

Brian Glaser has published four books of poems and more than twenty essays on poetry and poetics. He teaches literary history at Chapman University in Orange, California. 

Within the Walls 

Some homes in the American west
should build fire perimeters into their gardens.

I live about ten miles from where the wildfires
consume houses in the season.

The fire perimeter here is notional,

a memory of visiting Montgomery Grove
with my wife on her first visit to me,

she lay with her back along a fallen redwood
and wept a single tear of sadness and joy.

Peace,
she told me,

what made her weep was the peace she found there
unlike the frenetic danger of Guatemala.

Now wildfires have destroyed some of the oldest trees
in living memory:

I guard in my heart
the blackened coves low in the redwoods we saw that day,

the joy for the young in long shadows.

The Neutra Tragedy

As a gift to my wife on her birthday 
in the pandemic I promised an architecture tour
of Silver Lake. We took it today.
The guide showed us the homes of Richard Neutra,
elegant, spare, obsessively turned toward natural beauty
where he could find it in LA.

His passion, the guide told us, 
was for the single-family home, 
though he took other work to stay solvent.
After we saw quite a few of them
and heard about how they were homes especially for young families,
a certain sense of the tragic welled up in me,
confirmed when I heard about the affairs his partner, Schindler,
had with his clients’ wives, 
and it seemed to me that there is something
tragically innocent and wishful in seeking to perfect
the single-family home,
anticipating its every need and opportunity for domestic happiness
when its fate is to always come apart
as marriages dissolve and children break away.

I will soon own my home outright.
This morning I found there is a faucet leaking 
in the main bathroom,
and I will be satisfied again when it is repaired soon,—
though my wife told me driving home from the tour
that there are so many things
she wishes she could change about our house,

I didn’t ask her what they are,
and I am more than willing to consign Neutra to the tragic past
with all the grown-child modernists
and their great gestures of evasion—

who else hears it, 
my salvific, quiet laugh of sadness?—

maybe the plumber, Glenn, in Dallas for the birth of his first grandchild
who told me this afternoon that he’ll be back in town on Monday
and call me some time then.

Three

Diplomacy

I hate lying.
I have told many lies,

and I think
I may hold them all against myself.

This doesn’t matter to most people,—
I know that, too.

I get paranoid about once every eighteen months
and when that happens I have no idea whom to trust.

I can’t trust anybody sometimes,—
that is pretty deeply lonely.

Perhaps my worst fear is that the earth is a lie
and I am the last to know it.

Someday I may mature into acceptance
that liars prosper for lying,

or that they laugh together
at my credulous suffering.

The liars on the television today—
they make it hard for me to survive.

I survive in the truth of this poem.
It is not to be looked at for too long, like the sun.

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