SUNNI BROWN WILKINSON
The Difficult, Liquid Art
Salzburg’s sun suspended like a man trembling
on a high wire over the spires and the Salzach.
Tenth anniversary, and we kiss in the bowery.
I’m a flower you can’t stop smelling.
You love me the way a young man loves, a wild horse
nibbling grass, hurtling down a field wet with rain.
On The Sound of Music tour wives turn to Spring,
dance while husbands fumble with the camera,
turn away in their loud white gym shoes.
Flowers jeering, Forget-me-not, Wallflower. Pansy.
Captain von Trapp, whistle sharp and sonorous,
that glacier who slowly melts on screen,
lived here. He climbed the world singing. We saw him
as the credits rolled at the end of the world, bright
as snow. At the fountain in this city he loved, horses rise
from sea foam, men wrestle from each other like gods,
primal, carrying the weight of the world and the water
and the woman on top who kneels
having been created last into a world made whole
by her body. Can a man say that?
Around the corner, Mozart lived as a boy
in the dancing master’s house, cocooned
in music and the rhythms of the body
swift as water, like the man back home
who dances, terrible rage of his torso,
his bald head and large hands, the length of him odd
but limber too. Each time I see him I see the miracle
of a man like that dancing, the difficult,
liquid art of living in a man’s body,
of being broken and beautiful.
A Pocket of Air in Irish Man’s Brain
“British doctors have called the case of ‘the man that lost (part of) his mind’
one of the strangest things they have ever seen.”
—Irish Central, March 13, 2018
In the news today doctors say
the old man’s brain is part circuitry,
part air. Three and a half inches
disappeared. A pocket there, empty,
a hole the size of an ice cream scoop,
an egg, a short-tailed shrew curled
and sleeping, the head of a dinner spoon.
No one knew til he grew dizzy, tingly,
only half his body moving,
like a lover reaching across the morning
to cold sheets, chickadees then the absence
of chickadees, party next to a quiet room.
In the x-ray, his brain is half a Valentine,
blank space on the left before unfolding
the heart, folded wings of a moth, missing ovary,
a pear and the shadow of a pear.
I want to write love notes in my best cursive,
fold them into butterflies and let them roost there,
tiny aviary, open womb. I want to whisper
my seventh grade secrets into that locker,
turn the dial til it clicks. Like the safety deposit
box my mother showed me in case she died,
the hidden bonds each light as air.
I want to bless the space
in that Irish man’s brain:
mysterious cloud, house of ghosts,
holy of holies, a hollow
like children’s hands cupped
for a caterpillar, cradle of the lost,
quiet as the cave we explored
in high school, knees to nose
crouched at the back and the boys
with their flashlights
switched off, their breath shallow,
close, and more than half
a heart pounding.
“We wake up to different birds than at home.”
—My friend Diana, describing her travels on the back of a postcard
After sauntering down Bourbon St, after beignets at Cafe du Monde, fiddlers in the French Quarter sawing Irish music into the air, second line parades with top hats and white umbrellas, trumpets oogling behind them, art galleries, po’boys and live jazz in the courtyard, a man singing “Sunny, one so true, I love you,” pretending it was for me, after dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s and the drunk man slapping his wife’s bare shoulder to the rhythm, the way he looked at her like he wanted to peel off her tank top the way you peel off wallpaper, after sailors on balconies swaying, Cracker Jack bright against the dusk, after casinos and crawdads, after sun and fog and the smell of urine rising, my favorite moment of New Orleans was the morning a tiny but boisterous bird chirped his heart out over traffic lights while I was waiting to cross. Spring, and time for his solo, riffing the news over Julia and Magazine streets, he was greener than green beads, louder than Charlie Parker. Later I learn he’s one of thousands: a budgie from Australia, stormed in — hurricane hard —since the 60s and refusing to leave, nesting in the city’s palm trees. Wild heart. King of Spades. Open your emerald throat again.
Poem after Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe: Lent (chiffre 156) Peu A Peu
Little by little the birds of paradise
ruffle their papyrus–
thin and polychromatic
breast to breast, trill
into the light
like water poured
into a pool stilled
Now the day
opens and, exultant and fluid,
the birds take over
Fig and bergamot.
Sweet lemon tree.
The impossible jewels
and the birds coming.
There are lovers here,
their bodies like rivers,
Lovers like an altar burning
so predictably, their bodies
thin and wingless,
about to be broken.
I don’t want another love story.
I want immortality like this: beaked
and hungry, shucking
the fibrous shell of us,
the husk torn loose
and the seed glimmering.
SUNNI BROWN WILKINSON's poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Sugar House Review, JuxtaProse, Cimarron Review, Sou'wester, BODY, and other journals and anthologies. Her first full length poetry collection, The Marriage of the Moon and the Field, was a 2017 finalist for the Hudson Prize and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2019. She has an MFA from Eastern Washington University, teaches at Weber State University, and lives in Ogden, Utah with her husband and three young sons.