Les Brown is professor emeritus at Gardner-Webb University. He has published poetry and short stories in several journals, including Pinesong, Kakalak, Wild Goose Review, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Avalon and Iodine. He is also a potter, and visual artist whose work has been featured in regional journals such as Moonshine Review and Broad River Review. Two of Les’s poems were nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize by the North Carolina Poetry Society. Les lives in Troutman, NC. His poetry book, “A Place Where Trees Had Names,” was published by Redhawk Publications, 2020.
Cold Forge available on Amazon and B&N
A Place Where Trees Had Names also available on Amazon and B&N
A Prayer to My Mother
This warm April day
I’m brush mowing, clearing,
cutting weeds and saplings,
piling dead limbs to be burned.
where our house stood long ago,
leaving the acres of lawn, garden plot,
metal chairs, shaded porch, chicken lot,
grown over with golden rod, yarrow,
honeysuckle, ragweed, sweet gum,
red cedar, and pine saplings.
The knee-high white pines
have grown tall, old, gray, dying,
falling where they embraced,
where I took my first breath.
My chore is not of necessity—
it is a prayer to my mother,
surviving a life of duty, then
playing setback and canasta
with widowed aunts, all left alone.
She kept her yard mowed,
tended hollyhocks, Easter lilies,
irises, and rested beneath
the white flowering dogwood.
Return to Search for New Spring
At ninety-eight her wobbly, boney frame tottered down,
down the slope she had known so well before pipe and spigot,
down the slope she had climbed back up with heavy buckets full
to cook, to can, to drink, to scrub floors, pots, pans and dirty elbows.
“It’s here somewhere,” she crowed. “It comes right out on top of a big rock.”
We did not find New Spring that day of poking
and prodding at the forest floor among the withered sticks
and arthritic roots. A handsome son had lured her
from a farmer’s home years ago to live above that spring
in a shack made of derelict lumber camp shanties.
With a heavy stick I push away years of soggy leaves,
decayed muck. Slowly the muddy water in the deep brown
shadows of the bog begins to clear. Trickles wash over the wide,
white quartzite surface beneath muscled arms of rhododendron.
Under its massive rock, shadows hold the dark recesses of the past.
A New Kind of Sleep
I was two years old
when I ran away from where
Momma had stood me
firmly beside my brother
on the dusty gravel road
in a pool of cool shade
beneath the big silver maple
to stay there and not move
while she went back to our house
for her big straw hat
to keep the summer’s sun
away and to come back
to lead us to Granny’s
where I would not now go
because I was down the hill
in the bottom of the creek
looking down at the washed gravel
sucking in clear water
while momma shook my brother
asking him where I was
until he pointed down hill
where I could no longer see round stones
or hear the rush of water by my ears
before she jerked me by my ankles
back from a new kind of sleep
and raised me like a newborn
until I could remember the chub
that swam past where I gasped
in the pain of cheated death.