The Day I Became Golden

originally published in Caliban (1990)

Deep in a field that was not ours,I heard a barbed fence call meby someone else’s name.I moved in the wheatand stood before the wire.It told me to hold itlike I had never held anything beforeand the electricity bent my kneesuntil I was bowing down.For moments I shook there on another family’s land.When I finally could pull free,I put my palms to the groundand rubbed the earth.In red I wrote some other daughter’s nameand the fence said, “Yes, Deborah,now go wash in the creek.”

For Michael and James

in memory of James Reiss (1941-2016)

Immediately, the man’s voice, his wordsor maybe the way he moved in his chairand smiled, took me back there. Young,

we were all three of us younger and poetsand in love with poetry and each other.We sat in chairs at a table and we stoodat his desk. We smoked and went to partiesand the park and read and sang and smiled.We wrote. For him, for each other, for thosewe did not yet know. Back there, then, solong ago. The three of us wrote. Poetry

was what he was and who we becameand nothing, time or distance or death,will take those memories or make us not so.

His Arrows

from the forthcoming collection A Wife Is a Hope Chest

            She knew he was never without his quiver.            It didn’t matter what he had said, they hurt, his arrows.            The first one hit the wall, not the apple.            “It’s not very clever,” she told him.            “It is,” he said.            “Does the name William Tell mean nothing to you?” she asked.            “It’s an overture,” he said. “Stand still.”            But he missed again. He hit her shoulder.            Luckily she had balanced an apple there as well. In fact, she was covered in apples: on her head, on each shoulder, under her arms, stuck in her bra, tucked in her pockets.            “Burroughs killed his wife this way,” she said.            “Jesus,” he said, taking aim again, “it’s just a bit of fun.”            “Why aren’t I smiling then?” she asked.            “That’s a valid question,” he responded, landing one in her thigh. “Ask your therapist next week, why don’t you?”            “That’s not fair.”            “Nothing’s fair with you.”

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her work has recently appeared in Callisto, Public Pool, Under the Rader, Blue Fifth Review, and The Fem. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world’s wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. She currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where she teaches at a community college and serves as a hospice volunteer. More of her work can be found at

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

The theme of teaching and learning poetry, and our emphasis on student poets, speaks directly to the action of poetry in our country and global community. Never has the education of our students been so threatened, and never has truth been more challenged than in the current political climate. The truth emerges through education and the resistance and questions of our youngest generation, and it is their lead we absolutely must follow if they are to live in a society that fosters their achievements, liberation, and justice. Truth emerges through poetry as well — poetry bears witness to what truths seem impossible to speak any other way. Its constraints limit the temptation to misconstrue, obscure, and bury.