Certain Words
Bill Brown

Certain Words

Cringe, cower, shrink,
     recoil, flinch, blench . . .

dramatic words a child
     learns, preparation

for cardinal hitting
     the window, spider

under a pillow, night’s
     mirror when leaves

blow against a dark porch.
     Heart in the throat words,

soul’s secret closet, every
     life’s abandoned home.

Presence recalls absence,
     recoil, a serpent after

it strikes. Cower, a child
     at Walmart slapped

by her mother, how
     a girl on a bad date

marries the car door.
     Each life will practice

these words, waiting
     for a phone to ring.

Bill Brown

is the author of ten poetry collections and a writing textbook. He has been the Tennessee Writers Alliance "Writer of the Year" and a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts "Distinguished Teacher in the Arts." His most recent collection is Morning Window (2017, Iris Press).