Family Portraits in Verse (and Other Illustrated Poems) – a collection by Daniel Brown

February 4th, 2023

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Family Portraits In Verse (And Other Illustrated Poems)

by Daniel Brown

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…..It is always a delight and privilege to share news about the work of a writer from the Jerry Jazz Musician community.  Daniel Brown, a Red Hook, New York poet whose jazz poetry I have published for several years, has recently published Family Portraits in Verse (And Other Illustrated Poems), an exquisite collection that honors his past in touching, passionate verse inspired by priceless family photographs.

…..“The subjects in this book were all like us,” Daniel writes in the book’s introduction.  “They were sometimes flawed, they suffered and were often unsure of themselves.  They didn’t know what their futures held but they lived with determination and resilience.  They exhibited a sense of humor plus they were photogenic as hell.  Finally, they were impermanent but what they passed on is our legacy and that’s the reason we respect them.”

…..Family Portraits is a unique and soulful experience, one that introduces readers to a time and place Daniel so capably reveals, and to characters we are gratified to know.  It is about community, childhood, complex family relationships, grace, love, and the American experience.

…..The following poems offer readers an example of the rewards they’ll discover in Family Portraits in Verse…I hope you enjoy.

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Joe Maita

Editor/Publisher

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Click here to view Daniel’s book on Amazon.com

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Maude and Warren 1911

She pantomimes a dance
…………………..cane chest high, a pretend song and tap,
He flips his boater
…………………………sharing a joke like a vaudeville comic,
she looks at him with the laughing abandon of first
love, he’s so sure of her applause.
In an ankle length white dress and straw hat they’ll
never step forward from the oval frame.
She will feel loss in the coming war
…………………cancer will ravage him in future decades;
……….together they will share a life of place and family
……….posed for all time on this innocent summer day
seven night stars will never show the way.

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Grandfather’s Ashes

What should we do with the ashes?
His remains, now that the grandfather
we barely knew is remembered;
these are questions of a ten year old
who didn’t know the visitor who arrived one day
and hugged our Mother, sat on the couch and talked
like a long lost friend. In one old photo, shirt off,
skin weathered like leather, hands
gnarled and splintered as he stood near his house
which existed somewhere I didn’t know. He was
always working, unclothed from the waist up–
…..climbing high
ladders to fix gutters or the roof– crouched low to
…..the ground
tending plants– always fixing, repairing, planting,
…..mulching,
as if he rested the destructive past,
the reeling incoherent anger of the past,
the official decrees of the past might immure re-
…..redemption.

What should we do with the ashes of the half
…..clothed redeemer
in the old beat up photo who restored and secured
…..and tended
and did what he could to reunite with his children
…..and grandchildren,
not always sure who he was. The Doctors told him
…..to slow down.

Mother knew he wouldn’t. He needed the work,
…..needed the process,
keeping busy as if one nail, one vegetable at a time
would finally tip the scales like a wheelbarrow
…..dumping bricks.
What should we do with his ashes?
Will his remains live within us, when our leathered
…..grandfather,
almost invisible, is no longer remembered?

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Four Generations 1919
(Prose Poem With Cinquain)

My Mothers older sister was held by my mother, her
father next to her, upright and proud, her grandparents
on either side. He has a dapper mustache and bowtie,
she stood, shoulders back, arms crossed, wise Irish
face stern with just a twinkle of a smile hidden for
the camera.

Her great grandparents sat in front so fragile, dry corn
stalks long past seed resting in clumps of spent soil. It
occurs to me that they – my great-great grandparents,
shallow cheeked and gaunt, about 1860, as young
people, made love, naked and began a family. Their
faces became my Mother’s face as hers became mine.
Faces that existed before me and will beyond,
like the sun in a morning mirror outside the window
each day.

………………………………..faces
…………………..old, young, here, gone
…………………….a changing hologram,
…………….as I stroll my life, they become
………………………………as one.

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Illustration of Louis Armstrong by Linnea Brown

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1958 

 

His old records spun,
……………………………..the needle
dropped,

Hiss, Hiss, Hiss
Clickety, Click, Clickety, Click

78 times 60
too fast to read the label.

Innocent ears
spellbound by Satchmo’s cornet

(Muskat Ramble and Struttin’
With Some Barbecue)

…………………………………………heard
at the speed of sight and sound.

Surface noise, such imperfection
a window opening…
……………………………..to a way of life.

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Daniel Brown has loved jazz (and music in general) ever since he delved into his parents’ 78 collection as a child. He is a retired special education teacher who began writing as a senior. He always appreciates being published in a journal or anthology. Family Portraits in Verse is his first poetry collection.  

Click here to view Daniel’s book on Amazon.com

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Listen to the 1938 recording of Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra playing “On the Sentimental Side.”  [Universal Music Group]

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Click here  to learn how to submit your poetry

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