Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems

Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems

by Craig Morgan Teicher


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Winner of the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781885635105
Publisher: Center for Literary Publishing
Publication date: 01/15/2008
Series: Colorado Prize for Poetry Series
Pages: 142
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Craig Morgan Teicher's poems have appeared in many publications, including the Yale Review, Boston Review, Jubilat, Pleiades, and New England Review. His prose and reviews have also appeared widely. He earned an MFA at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn.

Read an Excerpt

Brenda Is in the Room & Other Poems

By Craig Morgan Teicher

The Center for Literary Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Craig Morgan Teicher
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-885635-10-5


A New Room


    Inaudible voice, silent voice,
    voice in my head, voice of my head,

    speaker of my thoughts, speaker
    of thoughts I do not think but hear

    in my thoughts when I am thinking,
    voice of my brother, I have no brother,

    tell me what I should do, tell me
    I should not listen to you, if only

    they could hear you, may they
    never hear you, voice of my dead,

    my child voice calling into the hallway
    for comfort no one gets anymore,

    though no one forgets, my dark
    voice who lies with me every night

    keeping me awake until you've
    worried your words to sleep,

    come here, sick voice, stern, pathetic
    voice of my father, voice that tells

    stories over and over, how does
    hurting me protect me, sweet, worried

    voice of my mother, voice that repeats
    until words have no meaning, voice

    that rehearses every word, cruel voice,
    come here, only stories end, which are

    words flocking to other words
    like blood cells to wounds, come here.


    There is no such thing as a happy
    person. The hour has come

    for generalizations, meaning
    falsehoods winningly articulated.

    Person: to stand in the way of
    something happening naturally.

    Happiness: the metal thing

    in a car that goes in and out,
    making that pshht-pshht sound.

    I suppose this is also the hour
    of definitions. And complaints.
    Did you ever notice that if you sit still

    long enough, you just get dirty?
    Brenda says that most dust

    is just dead skin cells. What
    are the chances

    that a particular flake of dead skin

    will return, like a migrating animal,
    to its native spot

    on its former body? The hour
    of speculations is at hand! Chances are

    grim, my friend, very grim, and
    so is this gray weather.
    Friend: cacophonous; birdlike; obsessed.

    Very: to clap hands, especially
    in the absence

    of cause for celebration.

    The apparition of these raindrops outside;
    flakes of dead skin resettling atop live skin.

    The hour — of what? — has ended.
    Hour: a thing defined in terms of itself.


How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or
round? Probably half the questions we ask — half our great
theological and metaphysical problems — are like that.

— C. S. Lewis


    As if bees are known for their pride.
    But what's so great about horses? They're stuck
    on the earth except when they jump,

    but even then they're not bees.
    But is there anything we value so highly
    as streetlights, which, unlike bees,

    watch over us with their swan-like
    necks and open their eyes at the right time
    every night? The answer is lonely

    and whoever among us is brave enough
    to find it will come home to a family
    that won't even look us in the eyes.


    But what's so great about eye contact?
    As if a horse knows a newspaper
    when he sees it. Streetlights don't live

    in hives; they're not more afraid
    of us than we are, fortified by stingers and swarms.
    Bees don't brighten the alleyways

    in which we commit our most heinous crimes
    to keep things moving and fill
    the papers with news. Why don't we have

    a holiday to recognize the alleyways?
    The answer is lonely and whoever
    among us is brave will have nowhere to jump.


    Why don't we sing a song that makes
    the bees proud? What's so great
    about desolate meadows? The answer

    is lonely. Why don't we come home
    and look at our family? Why don't we
    designate an hour to brag about news?

    What's so great about the way the papers
    blow through alleyways in the evening
    like deflated rats? As if pride could

    brighten the meadows at night. Whoever
    among us is brave enough to forgive
    a family gets to make eyes with a lonely horse.


    As if the answer is flowers. As if
    we could gather streetlights
    in a bouquet from the alleyways

    and brighten family after
    beekeeping family. But what's so
    great about seeing the truth?

    Beneath every meadow is the earth's
    molten core, red and hot as an evil eye.
    Why don't we blow through the streets

    at night? The answer is lonely, even
    if a horse knows the way home.
    What's so great about being brave?



    Brenda is not in the room. I am
    in the room. The room is

    the office we share: my desk

    near the door, hers up against
    the window. The room is oblong.


    Every good boy deserves a
    room. Room: a space that is

    or can be occupied. A good room
    is a fortress, a projection of
    the mind of its occupant(s),

    an inviolable space in which

    something can be completed, be it
    sex, work, or sleep. Every

    good girl also deserves a room.


    I am in the room, hiding
    though not hard to find. Brenda,

    for instance, could guess

    where I am. When she gets home,
    this is most likely where she will also be.

    Thresholds are of the utmost importance
    to rooms, allowing for entry and exit, and also

    facilitating occupation. Further, they give rooms

    context via the addition and proximity of other rooms:
    the room into which one passes immediately after leaving

    the kitchen — because it enables the quick and easy

    transport of food to those who will eat it — is
    the dining room. Those two rooms taken together form

    a special area of the house. The spaces between

    words are their thresholds. The meaning engendered
    by the juxtaposition yielding the phrase after leaving
    is not the sum of the meanings of after and leaving.

    Marriage is a threshold. Marriage:
    the legal union of a man and a woman

    as husband and wife, according to

    the dictionary. Also, more generously,
    a close union. The Marriage of Heaven

    and Hell. A More Perfect Union.

    Union: a combination so formed, esp.
    a confederation of people, parties, or

    political entities for common interest.

    Two people pass through the ceremonial
    threshold of marriage and enter

    a room together. It is a new room

    or, defying physics through ceremony,
    the same room they left, though different.


    One place when occupied
    by one person, two (or more) places

    when occupied by two, and so on,

    a room is not unlike the interior
    of a million-sided die.


    Any statement, made
    with an authoritative tone,

    can take on the appearance

    of fact. Author: one who
    originates or creates something.


    Statement: something stated.
    Fact: something having real,

    demonstrable existence, information

    presented as true and accurate.
    Brenda will be home soon.


    Even if Brenda is in the room,
    I can occupy the room as if

    I am the only person here.


    One hopes that one is capable
    of placing some of one's mind —

    in the form of words, which,

    like thoughts, have no physical
    substance, but have some kind of

    energy, if one believes in them —

    on paper. One then hopes
    that someone will read the paper.

    Read: to obtain information

    from a storage medium. I hope
    Brenda will read this paper.


    Stanza means room. This poem
    is divided into sections, which

    are also like rooms. I am writing

    this poem on a computer, which
    could be thought of as containing

    many rooms occupied by information.

    The computer is on a desk, which
    is in the room described above.


    Arranging words on paper gives
    an author the opportunity to

    carefully control the ways information

    is obtained from his or her storage
    medium, or mind. Meaning

    that any information obtained

    from a piece of writing is new information
    in as much as its source is not

    the author's mind but the words

    arranged by the author on the piece
    of paper, which may or may not offer

    clues to the originating mind.


    For instance, section 5, which first
    mentions marriage, was originally

    composed as section 14, but was

    then moved in order to ensure
    that marriage would be a subtext

    throughout the poem, which is,

    after all, about transitions and the ways
    the same ideas and spaces are different

    when occupied or portrayed

    differently, or when the particular
    circumstances that begat them change.


    This section of the poem, which
    was composed after the one

    it follows, and after the one that

    follows it, would not exist if not
    for the section that is now numbered 5.


    A good room should be able
    to contain whatever fits

    through the threshold. Though

    larger items may be brought in
    piecemeal and assembled inside.


    In many ways, two people are larger
    than the rooms — including

    those with four walls, and those

    that are figured on paper — that
    they occupy. To portray them

    factually, an author (architect or

    writer) must construct rooms
    that admit the necessity for still more

    rooms: in a building, this would mean

    many connected rooms to be used
    for different purposes, with adjoining

    rooms grouped in a comprehensible

    and useful manner; on paper, word choices
    must show an awareness that they convey

    only a part of their hoped-for meanings.

    The sentence Brenda is in the room, and
    rain-tinted light flows from her head

    ultimately tells only part of the story.


    Now Brenda is in the room. She is
    typing on her computer while I

    am typing on mine. We live together

    in an apartment with five rooms. Soon
    we will be married, and still living

    in this same apartment, which will be

    exactly the same size. We will cross
    its many thresholds as ever, in one way

    occupying just one room at a time, and

    in another, occupying many rooms.
    We will have crossed a ceremonial

    threshold, passing out of one figurative room
    and into another, or into many others.

    These rooms may or may not have physical

    substance; we may need more rooms

    than we can afford to have; we may need
    to straddle thresholds or close a door

    and both be on both sides at once.


Excerpted from Brenda Is in the Room & Other Poems by Craig Morgan Teicher. Copyright © 2007 Craig Morgan Teicher. Excerpted by permission of The Center for Literary Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 A New Room,
A Thing Defined,
Eye Contact,
Brenda Is in the Room,
2 The Key to an Unlocked Door,
I Am a Poet,
A Word,
The Tower of London,
For Charlie,
Four Gardens,
I Am a Human Man,
3 A Cure for Childhood,
Only Son,
The Last Minutes,
A Cure for Dead Dogs,
One to Another: A Creation Myth,
I Am a Father's Son,
Ten Movies and Books,
4 A History of Light,
My Embodiment,
Before the Sea Was Molten,
Like a Pebble in Space Is like a Planet,
I Am a Woman's Lover,
5 Poem to Read at My Wedding,
Poem to Read at My Wedding,

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