Clumsy dreams rattle her blood
crossing the land, turning to sand
like ground glass glittering through infinity’s curves.

Winter won’t listen to the sound of her name,
and shattering axes cleave dreams that vanish in vain.

Lost sky settles over a desert oasis set against stone,
where lodge pole pine trees rub their moan.

Brenda Warren 2014

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Fields of Forever

Thundering jets,
hooves spew fountains of dirt
as arrows arc from rider’s bows
into rows of Saladin’s Ayyubid army,
lances forward,
fighting on fields of forever.

Silver shimmers on hilts spilling blood
slashing as swords clash and clang,
amputating hands, answering God’s mighty call.
Knights Templar wield their holy swords
warring for Jerusalem,
an unfolding jihad.

Overhead a crow caws,
a tether rippling from its talons
as it scans the warring hordes.
A page of history rises like a status update
while the black bird circles the two Gods’ fighting yard,
an unholy park of steel and flesh—
spilling blood for a city,
spilling blood to prove which God is just:
Allah or Yahweh,
Allah or Our Father.

Horses step and scream.
Chinks in chain mail armor open,
as Ayyubid spears thrust through warrior chests.
Knights Templar rise and fall.

Neither side rests
unable to curb adrenaline’s slice
until death does them part
fervently falling into fields of forever.

Brenda Warren 2013


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Process Notes: Salah ad-Din, or Saladin lead an army called the Ayyubid army (I did some searching to find that name, as I wanted to be historically accurate). He captured Jerusalem, defeating the Knights Templar in 1187. I’ve been steeping myself in medieval movies, and watched Arn twice yesterday on Netflix. It is also a six episode series on Netflix. The series goes into far more detail. Both or either are worthy of watching. Arn is a Knight Templar. War in the name of God seems contradictory, yet it is common.

March 10, 1998

Snow dusts an upturned circle of earth
like powdered sugar on brownies
as sun blues Montana’s unrestrained sky.
A train masters rails through fields of calving cows
while fat bellied sheep stretch toward next month’s labor.
Its faint wistful whistle colors my coffee richer,
ushering in morning’s promise of a day to work dirt.
Gardens root me to earth and create space to thin thinking.

While mentally mapping out zinnia streets lined with thyme,
a rap on the door pulls me present.
Farmer Tom steps inside.
Working the bill of his hat with his hands,
words spill beneath sober blue eyes
words about school buses and trains
words that shouldn’t be paired
words that Farmer Tom shared:

“Two brothers died.”

Morning’s lovely face
swallowed them up
and their young bodies flopped like fish in a basket
when metal hit metal.

“Two brothers
were killed
at the crossing
on Buffalo Canyon Road.”

My shaken neighbor, forever changed,
apologizes to me for tuning in calls on his emergency scanner,
he apologizes to me for sharing the news,
and he apologizes to me
for being the only person he can find any place
on this still spring morning.

“Oh God,”
Farmer Tom puts his head in his hands
and he weeps.

Brenda Warren 2013

Process Notes:  This is a true story, except that I did not hear the train’s whistle that morning.  Poetic license placed it there. Tom and I also joked about how strong my coffee was, trying to make life seem normal. The oddness of that morning keeps it fresh enough to revisit in this piece. Ben and Christopher Petersen would be adults with rich lives now.

This is for the 100th Sunday Whirl.  Thanks for your continued support there and here.  You all rock!


Unaccepted Apology

A spree, a bender, a binge, a fling,
you swear it didn’t mean a thing.
Fearsome and away,
part of every day,
it haunts you with this
empty- bellied hole,
painted gone with window black
aftereffects of booze and smack
written in your intimate reserves.

A spree, a bender, a binge, a fling,
you swear it doesn’t mean a thing,
confined inside a mind that can’t remember.

Outsider, User,
Soul Abuser,
you cast your only able body under.

Brenda Warren 2013

Process Notes:
Bender, binge, and fling were all listed as synonyms for spree in MS Word. I liked the way they sounded in a list together, so I used that as a first line. With some direction from wordle words, the rest of the piece wrote itself, then I polished it.

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Whirl Twofer

buried and unbalanced

wings to carry me
wings to dry
wetness from my baby’s eyes
let me soothe him
dust his soul
bless him, bruised him
keep him whole

he deserves a first in life
screamed into a slap
a gasping instant
under all

a snare,
a breath,
an angel’s call

blue baby
dead baby
ride on wings
of dreams and prayers,
murmurings of might have beens,
buried and unbalanced

Brenda Warren 2013

The drumming thrum of wings drove him mad so

His snare pulled her wings asunder
and he stared in her glistening eyes.
He knew he was blessed by the blue faerie’s
gaze, through the way she unbalanced his mind.

He snapped his hands cupped
and shut her in,
whispering silk
through his thumbs.

Faeries always succumb
to whispering silk
through thumbs.

they always succumb.

Beat a drum.

they always succumb.

Brenda Warren 2013

Note:  Not all poems are autobiographical.  The first poem uses all of the wordle words; the second uses some of them.  Both came quickly. They read well aloud.

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Imaginary balance lingers like a doe feeding
until she catches your eye and darts into shadow
elusive as the thread that held you to her,
transfixed, rooted,
bathed in the naked face of now
where acknowledgment of nirvana forces capitulation
to the scurries of illusion that make hearts flutter
giving birth to wings and feet
that wake earthbound forms from hiding
aware for a moment,
there is no lack under fullness.

Doors, on the other hand, are human constructs,
holding candlelight between walls,
casting night aside.

The doe prefers darkness,
breathing for the balance of her steady beating heart.

Brenda Warren 2013

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manic chasms


Purple Scaries are swing events. My girlfriends and I used to swing side by side, holding onto the inside chain of each other’s swing as we increased our arcs. When we got high enough, we’d swing our legs toward each other until we could lock knees by crossing our feet. Then we’d let go of each other’s chains and alternate our swinging until our swings twisted together. We called this activity Purple Scaries; we’d twist until we couldn’t keep it going, then put our force into untwisting, only to twist our chains up even tighter the next time, then we’d use our bodies to untwist, pulling our heads in as the bars grew closer, twisting again in the other direction, even harder—over and over again.

Thrill seekers, we were lucky we didn’t smack our heads against the swing set bars. Purple Scaries plague me still, but I don’t share them with my students. I can’t be responsible for the blind stupidity of a thrill seeker, and at 50, if I tried one, I just might puke.

The story about Tiff D in the piece is true. She knows her mother is in jail, but did not know what incarcerated meant until Charles Dickens taught her.


manic chasms 

Purple Scaries twist swings in my mind,
manic and laughing, chains twist round chains,
winding childhood back and forth.
A dizzying affair
hewn from my neighborhood schoolyard,
fused through the halls of today,
annealed in my teaching
manic and persistent.

Tangents wax tales, chased and connected
back to basics.
While the subject verbs the direct object,
we fork through the fodder of our lives,
some of it forlorn, like when David Copperfield
teaches Tiff D that the word “incarcerated”
does not imply reward.

Sudden realizations open chasms to our soul.
Purple Scaries.
That’s what we fall into, that’s what we explore.

Clashing understandings open possibilities for discovery
while manic sand drips through the hourglass
onto the playground, beneath the twisting
swings that drive me to a place
where fear and desire collide
panicked and consuming.

Lunch duty and I find myself
looking up at the Montana sky.

Can Tiff D’s mother sense them from her cell?

Brenda Warren 2012


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Lake Vermilion Vacation

for Len

Missing link
No honeymoon
No one-on-one
Sans kid, sans time

Marrow to marrow
Bow to stern
Under stars, under moon

You navigate me
I navigate you
Loons pitch calls across the bay
Ululating in the wake of our sway

Sink me tender
Make me swoon
Administer triage
Swathe life’s wounds

Missing link connected
We climb on deck
Railed toward home
Anchored in each other’s port

Brenda Warren 2012

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Life is Good

Clouds powder the mountains with mist
until the sun’s slow erotic warming
dries the sky, dissipating droplets
into the blue.

Our gaze strays over gold grasses
that rustle like silk covering earth’s sweet curves.

We sigh in morning’s lazy swing
while the melancholy river
whispers its currents through pale logs
where turtles bask off evening’s cool flow
beneath the sun’s ardent spray.

A rosy finch flings her voice scattering it
through the branches of a proud ponderosa,

and we look up at the sky
rimmed by mountains
convinced that life is good.

Brenda Warren 2012

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grittled syllables

Cat bites my tongue
holding onto words
like gravity keeping my feet on earth
invisible but effective,
relishing silence on this dreary gray day.

As cat’s tail flicks,
a garbled refrain of grittled syllables rises
from cracks in the swell of my purloined tongue
(something about eating canaries
as antithetical to humility).

Perseverating on yellow,
chains disappear like teeth.

Cat lays claim to feathers
triggered by a spray of syllables
whose sarcasm blooms,

freeing my tongue to bleed the story
down this empty white page.

Brenda Warren 2012

Process Notes: We are having a dreary gray weekend, and nothing worth posting came for me yesterday. This morning, when I made writer’s block my topic, this piece came. Initially, “whose sarcasm blooms” was “whose planted sarcasm blooms,” but alas, I like it better without planted…. Plant is the only word I don’t use in this piece.

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