The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

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MAR 2020 Issue
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Two Poems


One problem with being a poet—perhaps the least of a poet’s problems—is that a poet can always be “working on something.” Other artists are comforted by the restrictions of their media, but I have no canvas, no dividing line, I’m always looking for material.

Walking I advertise my continuous self-scrutiny. Engineers, florists, anyone can worry a problem by not thinking about it, until stepping off a bus an equation emerges from the recesses of consciousness—“insight” implying a movement towards—but for poets walking itself is algorithmic: meaning built into the relationship between an expressed thought and the rhythm of its expression, as in Wordsworth’s hill-climbing poems written in Lake District cadences.

Jackson Pollock, instructed by Hans Hofmann to enroll in his school and work from nature replied, I am nature.


I’m fascinated by the idea of alternative autobiography. Walking as a form of revision. Self-consciousness as a state whose cultivation means I find it odd to continue to learn about myself despite the accompanying discomfort.


Forgive my supposed disbelief in self-congratulation, the minor victories of my inner know-it-all.

And you? Friends you know only as you could? Artists whose work you worship and in turn their subjects who were known by parents, children, historians?

Why would someone else imagine you were here? You can be a poet’s poet, or an artist’s artist, you should be able to be a people person.


Yes, I am comfortable
with the thought that looking
at a piece of art you might stare
hard enough for a miniature
version of you to walk
down from your brain
through your mouth
along an invisible line
to try to actually get into
the artwork, which is of course
entirely possible because
the work is an idea
and what I’m really talking about
when I look at this piece
is the miniature version of me
hiding inside it. When I say,
“insight” I mean that “synonym”
means more to me than “alternate”
“substitute” or “equivalent”—
that through the closed blinds
from which my toddler son
has broken single slats of white
a sunset came in behind
the apartments that dwarf my own
last night, and every time I looked up
from the cluttered kitchen table
different colors disappeared
behind the top of that building,
I could barely see what I was missing—
when my son was born
I used to imagine what he saw
using language instead of light—


Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

is a poet. He lives and studies in Houston, TX, with his family.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

All Issues