Dawn Tugs
Bill Brown

Dawn Tugs

For some, dawn limps in, a gruff,
    withered nook—furtive, backdoor,
        hangdog, swigging a shot of rotgut;
            life, a wincing rut that groans
                and pulls a pillow over its head.

My father greeted dawn like a hat
    he wore into the day, beneath its rim,
        a new beginning, yesterday and tomorrow,
            gone and yet to come. 

Boyhood mornings smelt of coffee
    and burnt toast, oatmeal and juice.
        A blessing said, a Bible verse, as my brother
            shot me the finger under his napkin.

Dawn tugs at the horizon,
    sculpts an orange glow
        among the moistened bark
            of March trees. First light
                rustles pine needles, seeps
                    edges of bedroom windows
                        cracked to collect a night breeze.

Today, dawn’s a maple table
    patinaed with living, human habits
        scored in its surface like a map.
            Follow it with fingertips,
                a memory brail—
                    mother’s small hands,

father’s pocket watch beside
    his cup—a day’s timed labor
        from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
            At night, it slept on his dresser
                as he slept,
the settling
    of an old house,
        waltzing to its ticks.

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).