Winner of the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry
Published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University
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 PublishingCopyright © 2007 Craig Morgan Teicher
All rights reserved.
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.
A THING DEFINED
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 IN THE ROOM
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
Contents1 A New Room,
A Thing Defined,
Brenda Is in the Room,
2 The Key to an Unlocked Door,
I Am a Poet,
The Tower of London,
I Am a Human Man,
3 A Cure for Childhood,
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,
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,