The Bards of Brooks House

John Fulkerson and Ted McMahon, both former residents of Brooks House, joined forces to to send us each three of their favorite poems.

We’ve published Ted’s work here before, but this is the first time we’ve heard from John.

From John Fulkerson’s collection:

Thin Places

I thought about Iona, a Scottish isle that’s
and just across the Atlantic
from where Iwas that day
on an Isle of Shoals
in New Hampshire.

Thin like Narnian doors through
the backs of wardrobes, going further
to connect heaven and earth,
which are three feet apart
the Celts say.

I heard a gull
high above the percussive surf, beyond a stonecottage merged into a rocky shore,
tall Timothy grass and blue sky all around
and thought,
Yes—three feet.

Picking Grapes Before Breakfast

I dreamed that I was picking grapes before
After clipping the first few clusters,
the smell offresh coffee
was wafting around
near whole-wheat toast and Lynn’s blackberry jam,

but that would wait,
because I was already picking grapes,
humming as the buckets filled,
marveling at the taut grape clusters
and their abundant sweet ripeness
that would run from our wine press,
surrounded byfriends and family


At the first sense of stagnation, I opened somewindows.
the fresh breeze light and warm, and sat witheyes closed feeling the air,
then walked where integration led,
love’s passion employed,
as the crimson dawn resonated
with faint vapor circling up from the sea,combing slowly along the shore and arousingcuriosity
about each element of the new day.

Then I met one

who would linger with me
over Wordsworth and tea—
no chatter, no miscalculated idleness;
just broad paint strokes.

I was just there—

a myriad of intervening immersions
ebbing and mingling,
countless interwoven elements
mysteriously taut with purpose,
their unique tapestries
providing enrichment to the cellular level,
distilling them
into precious memory

From Ted McMahon:


My grandfather got up early to section grapefruit.
I know because I got up quietly to watch.
He was tall. His hairless shins stuck out
below his bathrobe, down to leather slippers. The house was quiet, sun just up, ticking of the grandfather clock tall in the corner.

The grapefruit were always sectioned just so, nestled in clear nubbled bowls used
for nothing else, with half a maraschino
centered bleeding slowly into soft pale triangles of fruit.
It was special grapefruit, Indian River, not to be had back home.

Doves cooed outside and the last night-breeze rustled the palms against the eaves.
He turned to see me, pale light flashing off his glasses
and smiled.

I remember as I work my knife along the membrane separating sections.
It’s dawn. The doves and palms are far away.
I don’t use cherries anymore.
The clock is digital
and no one is watching.


Let’s meet in Santa Fe
where we can stroll holding hands along the acequia madre
then sip espresso
at the bookstore on Garcia Street.Let’s meet in Santa Fe and bask like lizards
on the rocks at Bandelier
or explore the secrets of remote creek beds.

Let’s meet in Santa Fe
to share our stories and let
the whisper of cottonwood leaves fill the silences between.

Let’s meet in Santa Fe
and eat posole with our eggs
and laugh, and love, and turn
the calendar to the wall for a few brief days

Song for a Soldier

Some say, “do not go gentle,” but you know
that thin divide between the darkness and the light.
You’ve skated on that edge; you’ve lived in both.

This card you’ve drawn is not the one you chose— a soldier true, you’ve mounted a brave fight. Lay down your arms, you will not be alone.

I call each week; sometimes you don’t pick up the
Your dreams are eased by Morpheus each night.
A tough old bird—I’ve never heard you moan.

We three brothers are the seed you’ve sown.
We scattered for a time—now we’re tight.
Your crops are in. Your fields are bare and mown.

You’ve tired of the pain of bone on bone, you wish this burden to be lifted if it might
be soon and gently, effortlessly done.

And now, my father, please allow our gift to you this night. We wish you peace,
un-furrowed brow, safe journey home…
Lay down your arms. You will not be alone.

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