Two Poems by M. Brooke Wiese

Cormorants Prepare for the End Times

A bullfrog harrumphs somewhere in the tall
grass along the edge of the reservoir.
A cormorant is fishing for his midday
meal; he stays under a long time

looking for plunder. When he pops up,
unsuccessful, he shrugs it off – a flash
of feet and he’s gone again. His wet feathers
iridesce in the sunlight like an abalone shell.

Up on a corner of North Pump House,
a mated pair of sleek cormorants puff
their chests and spread their wings to dry,
facing into the sun. The day is hazy,

the air is thick from the fires out West,
burning up the land from the Pacific
to the Mississippi. The birds flutter
their throats against the heat, a neat

trick to cool off in this man-made sauna,
a strategy never needed this far
north before, but we are in another
war, this time with the avifauna.

Last night, the moon rose luminous
above the reservoir, the color of
tangerines, a photo-op for social
media, unsettling all the same. Relief

is promised today, when sudden thunderstorms
will unleash monsoon rains, giant hail,
and wind shear strong enough to blow a house
down, and clear away the smoky air.


Memento Mori

In my kitchen, musing on Cézanne’s Still Life with Skull (1898)

Apples, oranges and pears fill the bowl,
bananas and grapes spill over its lip;
the footed bowl is cinnabar, jewel-
like against the black walnut tabletop
burnished by a hundred years of eating.
It is an uneventful scene, and ours
is a modest home. Life is fleeting.
Many days I hear Charon’s oars
thunk against the oarlocks as he slowly
rows dead souls across the River Styx,
their mouth-coins his recompense. Such folly
to think I can escape with either promises or tricks
when even luscious fruit, if forgotten,
shrivels, molders, leaks, and grows rotten.




M. Brooke Wiese’s work has appeared in numerous publications, most recently in The Raintown Review, Poem, and The Orchards. Her poems have also been published in Sparks of Calliope, Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, and Grand Street, and her chapbook, At the Edge of The World, was published by The Ledge Press in 1998. After a very long hiatus, she has again been writing furiously. She has worked in education and nonprofit social services.

“Swamp Frogs, August 1965” by M. Brooke Wiese

A jelly jar of polliwogs perched
on the canted, rotting, swamp stump
of a silver birch, held there by the fringy lip
where a chainsaw’s teeth once bit.
Its tin lid glinted in the late summer sun
like the gilded dome of a belle époque hippodrome;
and the thin-skinned, black-stitched tadpoles
stirred up the murky silt and flashed
against the glass like minnows.

Or was the day more rainy and more grey?
Perhaps it was a yellow birch or a white oak –
I can’t recall – only the smell of leaf litter and decay;
only the peeling rolls from the paper birch
scattered on the peaty ground like papyrus scrolls,
on which, with quill pens fashioned
from seagulls’ dropped feathers, we wrote
with great curlicues and grand flourishes, our dreams –
exalted proclamations and treasure maps.

Sometimes the jar’s lid was screwed on tight
and held the polliwogs safe and snug inside
until at last all had succumbed;
but once or twice, if the lid wasn’t tightened well,
the jar slipped and fell off the mossy log
and tossed the tadpoles back into the antediluvian bog,
sending them thrashing through the muck
like a pack of snarling dogs, and then,
well, you know the ending… swamp frogs.




M. Brooke Wiese’s work has appeared in numerous publications, most recently in The Raintown Review and in Poem. Her poems have also been published in Atlanta ReviewBarrow Street, and Grand Street, and her chapbook, At the Edge of The World, was published by The Ledge Press in 1998. After a very long hiatus, she has again been writing furiously. She has worked in education and nonprofit social services.