To Our Readers: I will be on vacation during July and August and want to wish you a happy summer. Poetry Monday will be back in September.
Good morning, poetry readers! As you in the Northeastern U.S. have observed, it may actually be spring here at last. In fact, given this week’s forecast, we may even have some days that feel like summer. Leaves are back on the trees, which so far have managed to ignore climate change, and some flowers are open now, seeming happy and innocent of world affairs, as I am trying to be, focused on poetry today.
Our poet this month, a new one to me as well, is E. J. Brunoski, as she prefers to be known to poetry readers. Her other – and major – professional identity is as a full-time, practicing psychoanalyst in Manhattan who has taught, supervised and run clinics. As we all know, poetry and psychoanalysis have much in common, and Elizabeth Brunoski’s education and career are an example of that. She began as an English major and poet, went on to finish most of a doctorate in English literature for which, interestingly, her dissertation was a psychoanalytic study of Nijinsky. About that time, she realized where she really wanted to head in her career and switched to a doctoral program in clinical psychology and finished up in New York University’s postdoctoral program.
Some fifteen years ago, Elizabeth Brunoski had already achieved considerable success in the poetry world. Her Master of Fine Arts was from Brooklyn College, where she studied with John Ashbery, C.K. Williams, William Matthews and Jane Miller. She received the Himan-Brown Award from the Brooklyn College poetry MFA program and the Amy Loveman Poetry Award from Barnard College. Her poems were published in a number of well-regarded journals, including Epoch, Focus, Field, and The Normal Review, as well as an earlier volume, Crazy Beat. Years earlier, in 1969, this multi-genre writer had a play of hers, “Furniture,” produced at the Side Steps Production Company in Boston.
How did I discover Brunoski’s work? A manuscript arrived on my desk for review shortly after I had finished a project of my own, editing an anthology soon to be published by IP (International Psychoanalytic) books, called “Climate of Opinion: Sigmund Freud in Poetry.” Although there were a number of poems in her excellent manuscript that could have been considered for the anthology, it was too late for that. So I asked if I could feature her in this column.
Choosing wasn’t easy, as you can imagine, but choose I did. Here, at last, are three poems by E.J. Brunoski, “The House,” “The Staircase” and “Eldritch,” published here for the first time. When you read the third one, you will understand why the last line is incomplete.
The only furniture left
was the pythons. “But you never stay long,”
said Mother. “Come in. The house is selling.”
Whee, I thought, no more dust bills,
no waiting up for the moaning spectre.
“Here.” I brought the paper,
the oral report, and some familiar animals
to fry. “No little broth?” she wondered.
She spoke of my brother: “As sensible”
as he is wise. You weren’t here
for his suicide. But why
do you two still argue?” (Mother,
we’ve discussed this.) She spoke
of my sister: “Too young. Too short.” Of me,
she said nothing, and coughed.
The drapes had been taken
to the detention home;
The piano had had to be put to sleep.
I took the funicular
to the attic: a last look at Father
with his red snapper eyes.
As he had always wished, I got the blear off
the pinball machine. Downstairs,
the windows were hissing.
“Next time,” I suggested,
“we could just get tickets to the laundromat.”
“It won’t be long now,” she disagreed, straightening
her wimple. “Almost nothing
is left of the floor. Sit down
and listen. The house is selling.”
This is the staircase that Rudolph Valentino
used to steal up to visit the woman
he loved, leaving horse and driver to wait
the whole night, in the days when sheep grazed
Sheep Meadow. His ghost, with its signature hat,
was later seen in the hallway, knocking and knocking
at a door. Now I slip down
the staircase to save time, or to not be seen
on certain days, or I study the cadmium blue
veins of the marble as I trudge up, slowing,
with groceries and books.
On the top floors I love
how the branching sconces cast archways of shadows
along the halls. On clear nights there, we open
the door to a roofscape of treetops and stars.
Somewhere in the building are two cellists.
Once, on the second floor I met a woman sitting
with her face in her hands. Sometimes the journalist
stops to make conversation and discreet verbal
advances. I haven’t told you this.
When I told you
about the ghost, your laugh was a question
and its reply. You jog over through the park
in your weatherproof jacket, pause to take
the elevator, enter with your key.
From the other side of the rustic
door they heard a small voice
pleading for some verses. The old
woman, tears rising,
made for the kettle. She met
her sister’s protest.
“It’s only a child, hungry, maybe
homeless.” But “No, no no,”
her sister cried, “it is the eldritch
that eats ends of poems – that
distracts you then out of your very
grasp snatches the