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Sample Poems by Charles Brice

Hot Tea

Ariel didn’t speak
for almost two years. Then,
one quiet morning on Walloon Lake,
I approached the breakfast table
with a steaming pot of tea. I poured
a cup and took a sip. “Hot tea,”
Ari said, clear as a speech therapist.
This kid was no cliche.
No “mama” or “dada”
first words for him.

A couple days later he looked at us
and said, “pate.” “Pate!”
Judy and I yelled!
“Hot tea and pate!” we chanted,
and danced on the beach,
and held him close,
felt his warm baby breath
on our necks, and thought,
hey, this kid might turn out
to be expensive!

Mnemosyne’s Hand

Ten years old and transfixed, I stood
beside my baseball idol, Jim Gentile.
That year, or the next, he hit 46 homers,
made a run for the Babe’s record,
only bested by the Mick with 56.
I handed Mr. Gentile the official Little League
baseball I’d brought with me all the way
from Cheyenne to LA on the promise
of seeing this game between the Orioles
and Angels. He graciously signed
my ball and I guarded that graying orb
for thirty years until Ariel, my son,
was ten years old. It was a hot Sunday
afternoon and we wanted to play ball
down at Koenig Field where there
was a backstop and canvas bases
we could run. We looked everywhere,
but couldn’t find a ball, so I grabbed
the one Mr. Gentile had signed for me.
What else could I do? I can’t remember
which one of us hit that ball into
the jungle of forsythia, ferns, weeds,
and brambles that lined our field,
but try as we might, and we tried hard,
we never found that ball with Jim
Gentile’s name written in blue ink
between those ancient Little League
seams. I often walk past Koenig Field,
dawdle watching young parents
throw the ball with their kids,
girls now as well. The details
of the game with Ari, twenty-six
summers past, and the one Jim
Gentile played against the Angels
in 1960, have dwindled, lost
in the folds of memory. As for
that ball, the one Jim Gentile
signed, it rests in the palm
of Mnemosyne’s hand, along
with the crack of a bat,
the chirp of Ari’s voice,
and his smile.

Gaia’s Stringy Fingers

Half way up that mountain I remembered
that I was sixty years old. The mosquitos
were as big as Russian migs with stingers
the size of nose cones. My Eddie Bauer

cotton shirt was no defense. Ari, my son,
was in his element, circling me
several times as we climbed this Big
Horn in the Wyoming wilderness.

Almost at the top, where a lake lay
near the ground we would camp,
a woman and her three kids panicked
past us down the trail in a rush.

The blood drained from her face,
her voice shook, “There’s a moose
and her calf up there.” Horror traced
her lips: “They kill more people

each year than any other wild animal!”
The frightened four were past us
quicker than Rocky could say “Bullwinkle.”
Ari chuckled and resumed his trek

while I stood still. “I don’t know
that I want to keep going,” I said.
“I’m no match for an angry moose.”
Ari took off his pack and patted my

arm. “Now let’s think about this dad,”
his voice was gentle, “settle down,
stay calm.” This role reversal
would have been funny had terror
not rampaged through my guts
like SEAL Team Six after Bin Laden.
I was not only the daddy here, but
a shrink with thirty years experience

treating anxiety—in others. “What
are you afraid of, Dad?” His face smooth,
unwrinkled by worry, head bent
to one side in the “I understand”

attitude approved by the American
Psychological Association. Before I
could respond, my inner SEAL Team
locked on their target and fired.

“I have to shit,” I bellowed, took
the toilet paper, found a tree
that hid me, and assumed the ancient
position. What was it I felt

underneath me? Gaia’s stringy fingers
pulling me toward my primordial
beginnings, or just tall grass? No
matter. The product of my efforts

behind the tree was momentous:
I didn’t know whether to baptize it
or give it a military funeral—
a twenty-one gun salute, and a flag.

When I rejoined Ari on the trail
my fear was gone. “Let’s go,” I said.
Ari smiled as the two of us finished
our hike. At the top we watched

the mother moose and her calf,
in the lake of our destination, munch
on pondweed and lilies—immersed
in the peace of parent and child.