Brenda Yates
    Any invitation to the idea of Brenda Yates should begin with the notion that she would discard all her white nightgowns for a household god:  Wallace Stevens. In her work Brenda takes on many guises and voices. She has soaked up the work of towering U.S. poets from the last century, and they loom close by when she picks up her pen. But she insists on her space, and every new poem is a new experiment, a fresh adventure in form, in voicing, in style. Perhaps this is due in part to her having grown up in many different places here and overseas. Through all her incarnations runs a current of genteel determination and love of craft: like her “lover” Stevens, she has managed to break free from—or I should say transcend—the shackles of a day job and embark on a lonely but fascinating journey in art.  

An Invitation to the Idea of Wallace

From Key West, over the Gulf Stream and turquoise sea,
come flying

over harbor masts and boats that song has changed

and the flat horizon rising like mountains in the minds
of Ramon and me,         please come flying

bring Tennessee’s wild green hills, its secretive
hollows and valleys sprawling into smoky mist;

bring a New Orleans jasmine-smothered
evening when moonflowers bloom
so quickly you can watch them open

and please come flying;

the Atlantic is droning (beyond what can be seen), fog
horns are bellowing as they drop beneath the waves,

and hibiscus is sleeping on the shore, there’s the dizzy
smell of spring soon to be on the lips of every lilac and lily,

early-rising snowdrops ready to startle the frost
and wake the ground from sluggish slumber
so please

bring drowsy with summer to a house as it settles, breathing
in the night, and that air,

fragrant and smoldering, to creak and crackle
all that’s wood of beams, floors and old furniture 
in the dark fires of its restless sleep.

Oh, I don’t want you real—those narrow ties, crisp, white collars,
knife-pressed, dark suits; the tidy house and well-kept lawn; the wife,
the daughter (loved and despaired of); the executive’s disciplined
routines—no, I want the genius of you, the genius

of your heart and mind. I’ve borrowed Bishop’s wings (Neruda’s too).
You can be my household god; I’ll dream of periwinkles and baboons,
and in the dropping silence, discard all my white nightgowns.

Melancholy Anagrams

Lonely elm
local men—
lean, homely, lame, coy, mean—
a yell:
come one, come all

oh meal! oh holy hymn!
yea melon, ham, hen, clam
ah cello, clan hall,
yeah comely
loch, lane, lye
Hey, lynch man,
heal each ache—
Mac, Ella, Lyle—
cleanly lace
each hole on
Alec, Neal,
Amy, Len

Hey, he-man
manly one,
each hymen,
lance each cell,
each coal hole

Hey, clay man.
heal one once
a Holly,
a Noah,
a Honey,
an ocean
once a home,
a name, a halcyon
calm only
hell can loan.  


2011 Brenda Yates
Brenda Yates was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the March 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series