Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Off topic: Descent, a poem

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

If you are, have been, or may become a Rod Serling fan, you’ll understand how I came to write this poem a few years ago while staring out the window on a long flight.


by Ed Brownson

Through acrylic
I expect to see Rod Serling sitting on wing
Legs crossed, flashing that famous half smile
A tray table in front of him fastened to nothing
Holds his ancient Underwood, the sort with
Circular keys in bleacher rows and the “W”
Improbably missing. Lack of a “W” is no
Impediment for Rod: his forefingers push
Letters onto a sheet of paper carefully
Avoiding the bare metal lurking between
The “Q” and the “E”.

Once in a while
He leans back for a frown or forward
Into a thought and I worry he’s conjuring the deep
Or bringing us down on some crepuscular
Island where deception holds court and Rod has
A lock on the rules because – no question here –
He wrote them. Then turbulence, and all of us
Who chose window over aisle press eyeballs
To plastic thinking angels or speed bumps or
Aliens at least but Rod just flashes the rest of his
Smile and shrugs.

Now the Underwood
Transforms into a flight recorder box – how in hell
Do I know what that thing is? – and unflappable
Rod starts tearing it apart. I bang on the window
Loudly objecting: dismantling a recorder while sky
Diving doesn’t seem very wise. Next, no warning
We’re inside a cloud and Rod and the tray table
And the box disappear along with the wing
As if we’d snapped tight those cheap shutters
That cover the windows. Long seconds pass by
Before we break back into blue.

Rod’s gone!
No sign of his seat on the wing, no tray, no
Recorder even the Underwood’s not to be found.
Panicked I crawl over the guy snoring next to me
Sprawl across a couple in the seats beyond the aisle
Hoping he’s only switched wings, but Rod’s not there
And I have to think hard about where else I can
Look ‘cause I really need to ask him how to write
A story with no “W’s” and while I’m at it find out
Why his skinny black necktie never once
Blew out in the wind.



I’ve published Descent with a Creative Commons license.
You can print the poem but you can’t rewrite it and  you can’t publish it without contacting me.

Creative Commons License

Off topic: Cycling Back, a poem

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Though it is not my intention when I started writing poems, a number of my attempts have wound up with medical themes (go figure). This is one of my earlier poems, written a few months after I experienced a near-life-ending bout of pneumonia. Each time I survive some new calamity and return to my bike I remember this poem, re-read it, re-live it. Yes, it really happened. This version was tweaked in May, 2007.


Cycling Back

You climb, standing hard on the pedals
for leverage, each cycle a notch into the sky
hovering at the hill’s pitch. Lungs burn

a shirt sticks to your back, blood moves
hot through thighs, an intoxicating dance.
‘To hell with the burning’ you tell yourself

“I’ll make the point and the other side”
and one breath pushes on another and limits
are driven out of mind – then it happens.

You are in a pale peach room. A lonely
window cut too high opens onto a wall
and forty inches of gray sky. You’ve had days

to make that measure but from a distance
for tubes creep into your arms and snake up your nose
and you long to rip them out but you know

know inside a moment or an hour or three
you’ll have to turn on your side or a nurse
will plant another thermometer or God forbid

you’ll have to speak, if only to say “I am tired
and cannot breathe.” The tubes are lifelines –
you let them stay. Three grave doctors appear,

hover, stare as if at a curiosity. One frowns
holds out his palms. “We can do no more.”
Another’s head quivers. “It is up to you.”

Minutes pass. A life is balanced.

And somewhere you find some thing
you thought was lost, some thing to push against,
some thing as solid as this bike’s pedals

some thing to push you to the hill’s crest
and the relief of the plateau. Another cycle
another, one more turn around the wheels

and here you are, at the precise point
where the sky meets elegant homes with porticos
and groomed gardens and the Bay at last

reveals itself. You catch your breath and drink
and wonder how many times you’ll climb that hill
before you can do it without spending time

in the pale peach hospital room with its oxygen
and thermometers and those doctors, their faces
all twisted and professional with concern.


I’ve published Cycling Back with a Creative Commons license.
You can print the poem but you can’t rewrite it and  you can’t publish it without contacting me.

Creative Commons License