Marcia Brown’s poems in this selection give us first in “What Comes,”  the sense of childhood security, when a father seems to have everything–even a future storm– under control, or at least seems to. Then in “Sunday Afternoon, Late October, 1963,” we sense how that sense of sanctuary is on the verge of historical change. Everything is so familiar–the attic, the childhood food. But we know a tragic change is just weeks away. “January Nights” is a love poem maybe only those of us who live in cold climates can fully appreciate.   Marcia is an elegant poet whose line breaks, for one thing, carry a lot of meaning.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry Editor

What Comes

“Here it comes,” my father would say,

   scanning the clouds from our porch,

as the season’s first feathers of snow

   floated absently to the walk.

I’d look up at the vast grey sky and feel

   safe, like a thing in a pocket.  He had,

after all, announced it, knew what was coming

   and would be there with his stockpile

of candles and creamed corn nobody liked.

   Propping the shovel against the house,

jingling the change in his pockets, he’d sniff

    the upper air like a horse stepping out of the barn.

Up and down the two-lane street,

   the long grey wings of uncertain skies

spread over us.  And there we stood, alert

   and keen as tuning forks, looking up

for the great cold whitening

   of that small place, thinking

we knew what would come,

   that we were ready for it.

January Nights


It is one of those nights. I am

up and down. You hear, I know,

the water, the air in the tap, the rattle

of pills for some mortal discomfort,

the light switch again.


It is one of those nights.

Dogs prowl and a fingernail moon

through the front hall glass

ices the carpet, a row of white tapers,

alabaster eggs in a bowl.


I slide shivering back into bed, reach

for your mountain shoulder. My fingers

trail your arm to the soft bend

of your elbow, to your pulse, warm

and steady. I hold on


tracing circles there, imagining circles

where people dance in the woods at night,

where travelers huddle around a blaze,

where an arm extends

to motion a wanderer in,

            where I am the wanderer,

            so grateful for your sleeping kindness.

Afternoon in Late October 1963


Melted cheese in a playmate’s attic,

cavern of taffeta draperies, a stringless

violin, rack of ruffled tulle whose prom

long since drove off in a borrowed convertible.


Dead slippers curl like dozing cats. We find

a sapphire ring in a box lined with satin

marked “Swan and Sons.”  But we need a costume–

flapper, pirate, beatnik, hobo, Gomez and Morticia?

Jack Kennedy’s voice on TV pushes youth fitness.

Black and white, we all suffer

from jumping jacks. The Music Man

sings Give that Chicken Fat Back to the Chicken.*

“I’m here,” her mother calls in waves

of cinnamon after the bath, climbing up to us

through light snow of dust, tightening a robe

strewn with fringed gentian.


Set a needle in Blue Skies. It feels

like soaring in a plane we’ve never been on.

Warm sandwich of girls, all we know

is twirling under the eaves of a long-gone


homebuilder. Cobwebbed frame struggles

to contain the grey decade, layered clouds

like feathers of a white bird scuttling.

When it happens, you’ll know where you are forever. 


*In 1961 President John F. Kennedy launched a Youth Fitness Initiative, accepting an offer from Broadway lyricist Meredith Willson (The Music Man) to compose a song to encourage schoolchildren to exercise more.  The result was “Give That Chicken Fat Back to the Chicken” which was then sung by Music Man star, Robert Preston accompanied by a rousing brass band.  Vinyl 45’s were pressed gratis by Columbia Records and distributed to classrooms across America, encouraging teachers to lead classes in daily calisthenics, motivated by the song.

— Marcia F. Brown

Marcia has served as Poet Laureate for the City of Portland, is the author of four books of poetry, editor of the anthology, Port City PoemsContemporary Poets Celebrate Portland, Maine, and an essay collection for book groups. Since 2011 Marcia has hosted a monthly reading series featuring local authors and poets in her home town of Cape Elizabeth, ME

Featured image above, top of page: Kathy Bradford, “Roast” acrylic on canvas, 72” x 60”, 2016