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Robert Brueckner: Two Poems

There in Black and White | Memorial

There in Black and White

About the smiles: people smile for pictures.
They're always made to stretch their lips, show
some teeth to others who will see this shot

a hundred years from now—in case one
could care how people hid what they really felt
on a warm June night in nineteen thirty-six,

a night picnic beneath a stalwart oak
where the hunters had caught up to the two
and pulled them up like piņatas to be

beaten as the world blacked out—or steers,
to judge from the dark stains on the front
of their trousers. Cars were drawn in a circle

like wagons, ringed around the women and kids
and roasting meat somewhere in southern Indiana
where even from a black-and-white photo

I could hear the crickets and June bugs
and smell the hayfields, the cooking meat,
feel breezes stir the hairs on my forearm.

Firelight showed a girl like my cousin Pam,
who gave the best smile of all, a warm
caress from someone capable of love

and ready for it too—you could tell
from the way her grinning, hopeful boyfriend
had his arm around her, looking at her

smile, or past her smile, thinking about
her breasts, her warm flesh on a warm
June night when the satisfying labor

of gelding and hanging had been accomplished
and now thoughts could turn to lighter
pastimes, such as how to get the smiling

girl to yield. But she was ready for it.
His look said this was going to be the night—
and to think it only took something as simple

and fine as the stringing up and burning
of two men. They called it a barbecue,
not a picnic, certainly not a chore

because it was all about good folk
getting together to do what they do
when feeling right: sing some songs,

have a few beers, later get laid,
if lucky as this boy with his muscular arm
around my cousin's waist, her warm smile

and lovely breasts. And maybe that smile
didn't hide anything at all, and this
was just the perfect ending to a perfect day,

all there in black and white, a fond memory
lying at the bottom of an oaken hope chest
inherited from a great aunt who'd made us

lemonade and laughed at our shenanigans
as Pam and I scrambled warm and happy
after fluttering bugs in the porch-lit night.


Walking down and down
on a drizzling day to view
the solemn ranks of names
and stepping over flags
and ribbons, you stumble
at last upon an ancient
stuffed animal stained
with baby drool and stroked
bald around a neck wound—
some mother's final gift
to her son, its matted
body all she had of him
to give—and now
you feel your own flesh
going down and down
you came here to salute
you gave no thought
to being ambushed by a
dead tiger in the rain.

Poet's Biography:
Robert Brueckner does web and multimedia work and creates shareware programs for computers. His poetry has appeared in The South Dakota Review. This is his first online publication.

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.