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Brian Satrom

Chasing Images

Leaving England

Tuning In

Chasing Images

            A light exists in spring  
             ––Emily Dickinson, Poem 812 in The Collected Poems, edited by Thomas H. Johnson

Whatever I thought I caught out of the corner

of my eye driving by
the other day I’m back for with a camera, filter,

and wide-angle lens; but it’s lost
or wasn’t there, maybe something I projected,
not clear anymore what first

drew me in or how I’ve found myself

here again. Something about
the church, cracked stucco, broken

concrete steps, probably built in the ’20s on a corner
of what’s now a freeway
frontage road; wasn’t near a freeway then.

In L.A. you can feel alive from just
the sunlight, the charge of it, or the purple smear

where jacaranda blossoms that fell 

decay below delicate branches, or the thrust
of bougainvillea tumbling over
a fence even beside small, box-shaped homes

with windows and doors barred for safety’s sake.
You might think you’re right

to go with a hunch, chase after a stray impression,
make of it what
you will as if it were there for you. But today

I don’t know.
This won’t be a great photo, a plain-if-old

church with unremarkable sky;
no real cloud action; flat, overbearing
shadows; nothing

for perspective; any chance figure or flutter
of wings haunting

the margins having since disappeared.

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Leaving England

We need seeing off, so they’ve come––
mainly church women with headscarves

over their hair and knotted under
their chins the way my mother does

when it drizzles––come to the airport to wish
us well. I’m not thinking about what we

have in common as much as of my teenage
friends I won’t see again, but years later

at the oddest moments they’ll show up again 
in my mind, these mothers, artists, widows, former

soldiers’ wives, and refugees with their own stories
of leaving, my family an ongoing

improvisation moving from one of my
father’s jobs to the next, the belonging but not,

getting almost used to it––feeling
a step removed, the way you might looking

at a landscape from a higher vantage or even
walking through it, through the middle of a field,

mud weighing on your boots, a sheet
of rain hanging from the heavens in the distance

like a dialect you feel you know, should
recognize, but can’t quite place. A sort of naïve

wisdom then to simply go with the waves
and well wishes like any

ordinary leaving––nothing that accrues,
carries over––just on to the next thing, get

on the plane, greet the flight attendant,
and supposedly this time we’re going home.

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Tuning In

It’s something to have my own room,

emerge or stay and close the door; haven’t yet lived
long enough one place to feel

I belong in any, a grade behind in school,
a sense of things
not yet discovered, through my Sears transistor

tuning in to 93 KHJ;
Roberta Flack; Elton John; Three Dog Night;

Earth, Wind & Fire.

My mother’s knocking
on the hollow plywood door. There’s a change––

I notice the house
seems quiet when I let her in.
She’s saying she feels guilty, how she cut off

the tip of my sister’s thumb
when my sister reached for a piece

of celery on the cutting board,
my father and sister on the way to the ER now.
I wonder how much

of the thumb’s missing, curious
to see if there’s blood in the kitchen, would like

to think I tell my mother
it’s not her fault. But the change––
I feel older, as if I’ve

been given a special charge even if it’s of someone
else’s guilt, a connection

even if it’s about a severed thumb.

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Brian Satrom is the author of the poetry collection Starting Again, published by Finishing Line Press in 2020. His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals including Cider Press ReviewThe Laurel Review, Poetry Northwest Rattle, and Sugar House Review, which nominated his work for a Pushcart Prize. His work has also featured on Verse Daily and Vandal Poem of the Day. After completing his MFA at the University of Maryland, he lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles before settling in Minneapolis. His website is briansatrom.com.


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