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Poems by Chris Brauer

Another Night in a Smoke-Filled Room

The furniture is walking away again
My cigarette and drink are playing a slow jazz-like tune
The bass player will arrive soon
And the saxophone is fresh from a Benny Goodman benefit concert
The women are dressed in snakeskin pants
Older women who will teach you all the moves free of charge
The wind is blowing outside
Sweeping the trash against schoolyard fences
But we are safe inside
In tight pants and leather jackets
For the moment we have made the effort to forget

The pool balls crack
And the women laugh
And the music sets the right mood
For drunken lovers in the alleyway
Men from offices
And women in heels
Pocket their wedding bands
To feel alive again
Under their breath they call it their ball and chain
And we move grotesquely under the coloured lights
And we stop the clock
And we move to avoid the fights
And we leave at the coming of another Saturday
A day to cope --- as they say

The young girls file in at quarter past eleven
They're underage and fashionably late
They dress in red and form a dancing circle
To avoid the threat of men
Who are too old but fear the cold
Of another night in an empty hotel
And these girls---
They smell of fresh smoke
And play show and tell with their long hair
It isn't fair
One man says to the other

So it's another night with nothing to show
And no stories to tell
But that's the way it is
Another night in a smoke-filled room

On the Verge

The Dutch girl is freshly pregnant
So she'll only have one cigarette
Rather than her regular two
A drink and a shot to wear the night through
The bartender wraps his cold arm on her shoulder
While eyeing the other affair
She won't mention it to him tonight
It wouldn't be fair
To spoil his evening with the news
He'll say she's in one of her moods
Or maybe she's just tired
And have no idea she's carrying his child

He sleeps most of the day now
In a trailer park off the highway
She's looked into buying a plane ticket home
Or thought about it anyway
Time's running out 'till the decision has to be made
At which point she'll have to deal with keeping it
In nine months she'll be cradling a child
And her plans for international travel will be on hold
She's moved into a girlfriend's place to get some space she said
And has told the world she'd feel better dead
But she'll go back home
And she'll cry as the Atlantic wind stains her face
And she'll never look back at this hole of a place
Where the highway runs through

It's been a month and a bit
Since I left there myself
And she's got a little less than seven months to go
And her body will begin to grow
And her mind will have to show it's capable of giving birth
Somewhere a young girl is taking a test
And crying on the bathroom floor
And somewhere a man is oblivious to the fears
He left at the door

The ideal of marriage and baby carriage
And happily ever after
Fades into laughter of ridiculous expectations
Everyone's on the verge
Of loving or leaving
I guess that's the freedom
We've all fought for
In a time of post-war
And post-peace
And post-everything-else-we-please

These Women

These women have no interest in poets
They are built as young girls are
With feet like fossils
And shoulders of stone and deer meat

I have become like a blind man
Reaching for the bedpost
Listening to the girls arm themselves with visions
And watching the trees catch fire
Melting the sculptures of heroes

A cloud of despair has lifted
But I want it back
So I can drown myself in slow trombone music
But the sun makes everything translucent
And all that is left are the needles
Balancing on sewer drains

These women are tossing pennies into the downtown fountain
They don't bother to whisper the same wish
Someone up there understands

The Game

She is speaking of the terrible crime
Where she saw both hell and the way down
Where she stood with a sick grin on her face
Where she was surrounded by the artificial savageness of the clown

Now --- on the road south --- with a cigarette in one hand
And a bottle of bourbon in the other
She is taking the candy-apple convertible to a hundred and twenty
She'll tell you she is chasing the sun
And she enjoys being on the run from the law

In shopping malls
In the stillness of the morning
Waiting for the shops to open
She'll be in and out
Laughing all the way
She'll get back to having the wind in her hair
By half past ten
When the boys start to line the beaches
And freedom shows its ugly head

The men are all tied up
And she's doing up her pants
It's the end of the game
And they have no one to blame but themselves
And she leaves them a quarter
For a ride back home
Wrapped in hotel towels
At the coming of the dawn

There are those who wake when the sun is already high in the sky
There are those who put in twelve-hour days
And see no reward for their life of loyalty
And there are those that are sent away when their life grinds them down
But there are those who choose not to sleep next to an aging man
Or sit for eternity in the passenger seat
Reading bad directions to house-parties where no one dares speak their mind
Whispering please and thank you and aren't you kind

But some of us dare to just drive
And see the world while we're still alive
And kiss the sky
And forget about the questions of who and where and why
Some of us go beyond the borders of the city
That hold us like unknown prisoners
Some of us learn to see

And so the heroine of our story
Never makes it to the Mexican border
But is gunned down one afternoon
By a county sheriff
Who recognizes her from a poorly sent fax
Gains fame for the one who stopped the rage of the fox
And they bury her in the sand
Where the cactuses grow
And the people on concrete grass
Continue to show themselves at the discos around town
You can see a smile but they wear a frown

The men are all tied up
And she's doing up her pants
It's the end of the game
And they have no one to blame but themselves
And she leaves them a quarter
For a ride back home
Wrapped in hotel towels
At the coming of the dawn

After Hours

The men are scratching their faces
'Cause they haven't shaved in a week
The women are reapplying their lipstick
Still believing they could go home
With an army cadet
These are memories not worth keeping
These are lost hours before we sleep
Past the rising of the sun
Under thin blankets
In bad apartments
Just off Main Street
Where we carefully lift our feet over passed-out drug addicts
With needles still stuck in their blue arms
And occasionally we're woken by the siren of an ambulance
When someone bothers to call in a crime

We sit in high wooden stools
And rest our heavy heads
On cracked hands with chewed nails
On the bar overlooking the wet streets
That reflect the Chinatown neon
No one has a quarter for the jukebox
That would be too loud and rude anyway
So we listen to Billie Holiday croon from bad speakers
That add to the ambience of the mood
The women in hot pink pants
With expensive silk undies
Have nestled themselves into arms
Of men who have no name
And the drifters have robbed the cigarette ends
>From café ashtrays
And all that's left is bad poetry
And those on their way home in Salvation Army shoes
You find a reason to leave when you can hold it no longer
And the bathroom is closed 'cause someone overdosed
And the cops are late
So you find a park where college kids
Have passed out next to flowers
Like lotus-eaters
And you're relieved until the next hour
Where a plugged shower drain and brown water
Wait for your return

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Biographical sketch: Chris Brauer uses poetry to bring into light the common people. He believes poetry should be for the 'folk' and hopes his words can bring the light of the truth.

Chris Brauer recommends:

Stranger Music by Leonard Cohen

Reason: Cohen uses stark images of the surreal to stretch our emotional capacity. While experimental, his poems, and lyrics, are for the people of the street, as well as lonely university professors.

Recommendations for writers:

Don't think about anything. Free your mind. Allow the voices to rise from the unknown place we all have and yet cannot explain.



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