Joyce Brown, Three Poems

Wild Goose Poetry Review, No 33, Fall 2017


“It is difficult at times to repress the thought
that history is about as instructive as an abattoir
…that peace is merely the desolation left behind
after the decisive operations of merciless power.”
Seamus Heaney
“The Nobel Lecture”

On the streets of Belfast
in front of the renown Europa
hotel, bombed and repaired, bombed
and repaired during the Troubles,
celebrated for famous and infamous
visitors–Presidents, the IRA–
we were gathered and dressed
to seek that distant past Americans
seek in far-off lands, the scent
of ancient forbears, fine
Scots-Irish threads, visions
of ancestral farmers come to town
from windswept stony huts

when the kid came through
aiming for punk in his deep
black clothes and his blue
black hair pale skin dark
studded brows jutted chin and
hunkered shoulders crashing
through our dawdling
presumptions with his mouth
purring like an engine: I don’t
give a fuck about your fucking
free state I don’t give a fuck
about your fucking culture
about your fucking tour
move outta my fucking way.

Inside the Europa
we huddled at the bar
where flat and polished
screens turned toward
America, another televised
viewing of a black man
shot down, another cacophony
of frustration and despair,
angry words deflected by
remote control.




Lady Liberty waved to us from the curb.
She was wearing her greenish plush robe
with extra stuffing, and her seven starry points
undulated with nods and bobs.
She was there for insurance seduction,
not liberty at all. But we cling closely
to tradition here, settle for synthetic plush
instead of steel, a green flapping liberty crown
with flushed pink center. She could have been
a pointy flower in a children’s play
where all the boys and girls are puffy,
and floppy little birds and flowers dance
in the breeze before they ever have to be
insured or interred or sorted into genders
and sinners and the righteous and the damned
on a spring Carolina day.




My cousin’s chickens
roam free, lay their bounty
in the old family coop
built by his father
sometime after the war.
They’re young
hens and pullets.
They don’t live long
and they’re barely a dozen
or so to do all the work of
eating, scratching
and laying.

It was easier
when the coop was new,
before the coyotes came,
bloody predators
whose feral eyes gleam
yellow in the dark,
whose tongues hang
drooling beside ochre
incisors as they slink
under the coop among
the low-limbed trees,
licking their lips for
luscious yolk and meat.

Each ovoid shape
is morning’s artifact
carved by one who heard
the howling in the dark,
held herself motionless
above the ticking tap
of claw upon hard earth.
Each is daylight’s
celebration of courage
and caprice within
the night.


Bio: Joyce Compton Brown earned degrees from Appalachian State University and from the University of Southern Mississippi. She studied poetry at Hindman Institute and took workshops at Berea College. She taught at Gardner-Webb University and has published in numerous journals. Her chapbook Bequest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2017. Her forthcoming chapbook, Singing with Jarred Edges, was a finalist in the Cathy Smith Bowers contest in 2017.

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