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Andrea Carter Brown

About the Poet
Andrea Carter Brown spent her childhood crisscrossing the Delaware River to visit relatives. More recently, she has spent many happy hours birding in Cape May, on the ferry to Henlopen, and in various mosquito- and tick-laden sites all around the Delaware Bay. One of her prize possessions is a 10-inch long oyster shell found on Sunset Beach.

She is the author of a poetry collection, The Disheveled Bed (CavanKerry Press, 2006), and an award-winning chapbook, Brook & Rainbow (Sow's Ear Press, 2000). She is currently completing a manuscript of linked heroic double sonnet crowns titled September 12. A longtime resident of New York City, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she has been a Visiting Lecturer in Poetry and the Managing Editor of the Emily Dickinson Journal at Pomona College.

Learning to Write at Higbee Beach

Many months I couldn't write: words had lost
their connection to the world; meaning itself
seemed no longer possible. But it's impossible
to live without faith. In the avian world, birds
do not kill their own species or, except birds
of prey, any others. Near the lighthouse we
once saw three different migrating warblers
share a single oak willow: flame-throated
Blackburnians at the sun-licked top branches,
Chestnut-sided in the shade at the bottom,
while the increasingly rare Bay-breasted,
whom you saw often as a kid but I've seen
just that one time and never since, forages
along branches in the middle part of the tree.

Since each prefers a different part of the tree,
why shouldn't they share? This was not some
wishful thinking "Peaceable Kingdom" in Cape
May, New Jersey, where a ram sleeps at the feet
of a lion and a child can pet a leopard, the scene
Edward Hicks painted over sixty times, as if
art could make it so. No, this was real, albeit
more "live and let live," if the truth be told. Or
consider the plump Yellow warbler we found
perched on a nest at eye level along the edge
of an overgrown field near Higbee Beach. Built
into the crotch of a mulberry tree, this nest is no
cup; more a cylinder, an upside-down bowler.

Less bowler than upside-down stovepipe over
a foot long, or high, or deep (it's hard to know
which word is right), neatly woven of milkweed
fibers, hemp, and transparent horse hairs, four
times this season a Brown-headed cow bird
has dared to lay one of her much larger eggs
in the nest, hoping the Yellow warbler will
hatch and feed the gigantic chick as her own.
Four times so far this spring, this Yellow warbler
has walled off her own clutch and laid another
on top of the last. Four times this year already,
to judge from its current height, she's rebuilt
her nest on top of the ruins of the old, simply
accepting what she can't change, moving on.

Accept what is and move on, as birds the world
over do and have done since before this world
was as it is. For millions of years, along coasts,
around oceans, across, up and down rivers
- the Mississippi, the Hudson, the Delaware,
Amazon, Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates -
birds have found their way. When I remember
that bright yellow bird on that upturned hat
of a nest, her breast the shade of sunshine,
the black pupil of her gaze unwavering; when
I consider all she has done to get here, out of
the grief, out of the despair at what the world
has come to and what humans do to each other,
I take heart. Perhaps we too will find our way.

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The Delaware at the Lehigh

A quick strip to her Betty Grable
two-piece, a few slippery steps
and she breaks clean, one arm

after another pulling her into
the stream, feet aflutter, sun
straight above her. Twelve

strokes and the current kicks in,
dragging her a foot south for
every one east. And she lets it

take her, having learned by now
not to fight it, that the river will
safely deposit her on the bank

directly opposite the steel-mill-diverted
tributary which, falling to her level,
itself diverts the main channel around

an eddy. Facing the churned-up confluence,
she carefully picks a path barefoot
beneath the bluffs where her parents

took refuge during the Depression, then
under the spun-steel bridge painted black
which snapped in half in '03 interrupting

all intercourse for months. By trial
and error, she's figured out the right
place to head back, a worn smooth

erratic from which, in early summer,
before the stream shrinks, she can dive
deep into its clear green. Coming

up for air, then, she slips into her self-
taught crawl again, the current
this time pulling left and she rides it

toward the tiny beacon of her clothes
to complete the right equilateral triangle
she's studying in school with the student

teacher she one day will marry. It's
almost evening. The sun burns
low in the sky and in her eyes,

the water pink radiance on her skin,
as she approaches, wanting this minute
never to end, her flesh and the river

one and cool and flowing beyond
thought, beyond worry, flowing
wherever it and she will go.

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~ Andrea Carter Brown
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