Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown is a poet and novelist raised in Chad, who lives now with his wife Melinda in Kansas. He holds an MFA from the University of Maryland, and his work has been published in Tupelo Quarterly, The Portland Review, Dappled Things, and Sojourners, among others. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Winnower(Wipf & Stock, 2013) and novella Bound (2012). He is an assistant professor of writing at Sterling College. Visit his website at www.writingtheinbetween.com.


I slip beneath the surface in January, so cold
the water steams from the pool into the air

like effervescent waves—

you could blow them with a breath and watch
as they take shape and sail above till they become

indeterminate from cloud.

I wish that in their airborne steam I could have a seat,
could breathe myself across borders and oceans,

breathe myself into a new skin

different than what I am now: a man, watching pool waves
lick sandstone siding, remembering

the boy who sifted grains

with his steps to join Moussa by the great road
where Toyota trucks rushed through town like zephyrs—

but now only a man, waiting

in suburbia for the myth of life to return and take him up
in its cloud one last time.


All senses in oblivion drift away…
Earth ending, I went free,
left all my care behind.
—St. John of the Cross.


It is the feeling between my car and the front door,
when the night broods over suburbia, stars cloud-covered,

and a prayer is lifted up to the overwhelming black:
to a God who dwells beyond an atmospheric buffer.

I have tried to find you in the deepest reaches—
there was another shooting today, did you hear it?

It happened in a school or a church or a hospital,
committed by a deranged loner or a perfectly normal citizen.

The news came screen-scrolling across my mind,
numbing and muting any words, leading me out

into the world to see if anyone other than me was still alive,
still breathing, still sane. I drove the neighborhood streets,

the parks closed at dusk, the windows shuttered and barred,
and I passed down Annapolis Road to see used car lots,

mattress stores, and fast food chains, signs burning their letters
in my mind, but still I saw no one. Night of my soul, I have tried

to find you as I hear the cries stifled or try to stifle
the cries in my mind. I ask for wakefulness from their pain,

relief from war or storms or quakes or a list of things I can’t keep track.
I ask for the world when I was a boy and people only smiled,

adults only whispered among themselves things I wasn’t
supposed to know, but now all words are broadcast against

the black in neon tubes, commercialized sorrow-screams.
I ask that if this prayer is heard, make me deaf to the world

because I don’t have the ears to hear it,
nor the want to do anything if I could.