Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Review: A Poetry and Nonfiction Journal from Anchorage, Alaska

I have been thinking again about how poetry thrives in the little magazines, the whispered conversations that take place between furtive poetry lovers throughout the 50 United States and beyond. I have yet to visit Anchorage or go further into the white capes of Alaska. From that space comes Two Review, "an independent, limited edition journal of poetry and nonfiction." The journal publishes writers from beyond the steppes. It reminds us that we are all marooned on private glaciers and that we need visitors. The poems in the journal have been my guests over the last weeks. They have opened my eyes again to the bitter and the sweet in human experience. Here is a poem by Sean Brendan-Brown, a poet based in Olympia, Washington. This story haunts me, the punch in its last lines. Now, don't jump ahead! Read the poem in order. I have a hunch it will make you glad and sad and you will feel a little less alone.


He worked our ranch since before I was born—
more uncle than hired hand—Pawnee,
changed his name to King of Wounds
after Korea. Part serious, part joke.
He believed fighting the Chinese
had changed his vision forever at Chosin;
the vision he had at fourteen of a black owl
flying loop-the-loops around a waxing red moon,
talons clutching a shrieking white rabbit.

His name then had been Johnny No-Horses.
He returned from Korea with a cigar-box
of medals, face & chest as scarred
as Frankenstein, but with enough disability
pension it didn’t matter no one wanted Indians.

King of Wounds. Odd even among men
reluctant to judge. He rode his circuit
of fence at night when cattle broke out
or men in; he loved stars and meteor showers,
considered insomnia a blessing.

A beautiful woman once lured him
to the city. Tried to give him everything.
They had a good time and he even wore
the pearl button shirts she bought him.
But at evening’s end, she went home alone.
When I’d heard the story enough from others
I asked him about it, and all he said was
on those barren islands
they die, blamed and blaming.

-- Sean Brendan-Brown, from Two Review, 2007