Featured Poet: Deborah Brown, Warner
Deborah Brown’s book of poems., “Walking the Dog’s Shadow,” is the 2010 winner of the A. J. Poulin Jr. Award from BOA Editions , as well as the winner of the NHLA award for “Outstanding Book of Poetry, 2011. Brown is a translator, with Richard Jackson and Susan Thomas of Last Voyage: Selected Poems of Giovanni Pascoli (Red Hen Press, 2010) and an editor, with Maxine Kumin and Annie Finch, of Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2005) Her poems have appeared in Margie, Rattle, The Alaska Quarterly, Stand, the Mississippi Review and others. Brown is a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester where she won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband George Brown and four cats.
This poem, ”The Human Half,” began when I remembered an expression of my father’s. He used to call me, my ideas, anything he didn’t agree with, really, “half-baked.” I began to think about that. I am also acutely aware of living in a house that for the last ten years or so has been half-built. And then I remembered reading, probably in a long-ago anthropology class, about Claude-Levi Strauss’s use of the terms “raw” and “cooked” to describe different types of cultures. I believe I googled Levi Strauss to check on those words. I had fun playing around with these three ideas, until they turned somber on me, as my writing tends to do.
The Human Half
Half-baked, my father used to say, meaning,
that I was half in a state of nature, not yet
abashed into civilized form by parents
and other elders, the yeast still rising.
I’m consumed by who is cooked and who is not.
I see traces of wildness in our half-built house
and in the fond eye of a friend’s eye, the raw gleam
of a machete. It begins with the sperm’s wild dash
to the egg. There’s a half that’s whole
in most of us, like members of a family
one rich one poor, or the halves of this house--
the now and the hereafter, the part that loves,
the part that does not. Raw house, always half-built.
Raw human. Still half-baked. One hand
in the oven, the other half out the kitchen
door into the storm. If I could flee. Or bake.
But think of not having a home. There are
the homeless and those who do not have a homeland,
and the rest of us—homed, but only half-homed,
the wind whistling in from the shed and past us.