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Sample Poems by Charlie Brice

Writer’s Block

So new for me. Usually
I suffer from logorrhea,
not its nasty little cousin.

What a strange discipline
writing poetry is. You
create a good one

and then poof! You may
never write another. You
can’t blame the weather

for your dry spell or
the pandemic for your
empty quiver—only

your skimpy imagination,
your failure to order
life’s scree, find your

soul in a nearby riffle,
or appreciate the composition
of a neighbor’s coursed ashlar.

Inside there’s a stickle
about word choice,
punctuation, or whether

anyone would find your
work a tiny bit interesting.
All of which adds to your
hebetude until, desperate,
you consult the back flap
of your notebook where

you’ve listed words like
scree, riffle, ashlar,
stickle, and hebetude,

words you can throw into
a poem—literary lifejackets
that rescue stranded bards,

keeps them afloat, prevents
their drowning in self-
criticism and doubt.


They say the only Zen you’ll find
at the top of a mountain is
the Zen you brought with you.

They say you’ll be enlightened when
you discover that your starting point
was your goal all along.

I think of the drunken guru that Allen
Ginsberg loved like a mother, Trungpa, who
made W.S. Merwin and his girlfriend strip
naked against their will at Naropa in 1975.

I think of Sogyal Rinpoche confronted
by a young woman with whom he’d had
illicit sex—how the Dali Lama, who stood
next to him, broke down and cried.

Oh, the unending spiritual labyrinths we invent
to avoid admitting that when it’s over, it’s over—
that death isn’t a dark room or an endless sleep,
but the absence of dark, the abolition of sleep.

After forswearing his meditation practice,
Martin Buber realized that “all real living
is meeting,” right now, with those around us.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote that, in this life,
“there is only one rule...God damn it,
you’ve got to be kind.”

And an obscure poet, Charlie Brice, advises
that after you wring out your washcloth
of religion, hang it up with
all your other hang-ups.


Two old ladies pass me
in a Portland rose garden.
The one says to the other,
“I told Braxton, I said,
‘Braxton, God could have
made the world in black
and white, but he gave it color.’”
How could something so utterly
idiotic sound so dear?

There’s old God, his floppy
artist’s hat snug on his head,
his pencil-thin mustache riding
up and down, his pursed lips
squeezed to one side of his
mouth and then to another.
He stands in front of his easel
and gazes at the colorless orb
that inhabits his multi-dimensional
canvas. It’s our world!

He moves back, to the left,
to the right, gets close,
shakes his head. There’s
something missing. A palette
appears balanced on his left
hand. I’ve got it! Color! He
dabs his mighty brush into
a glob of blue and smears
it on our globe, then conjures
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
and dances while he paints. He
goes nuts with the greens,
the yellows, the reds, every
hue at his command.

He thinks of Braxton,
his grandma and his
grandma’s friend, and
the lovely rose garden
that I, a nonbeliever, frequent.
And he thinks, “That’s good.”

Penis Envy

The little girl envied the penis because,
as Freud wrote, she thought she’d been
castrated. Freud’s disciple, Karen Horney,1
debunked that myth by demonstrating that

Freud’s theory of the little girl’s castration
was identical to his theory of the little boy’s
fantasy about what happened to the little girl.

Horney’s truth did not set Freud free. He went
apoplectic. Some say his cigar fell out of his mouth
as he berated Horney for her apostacy, but then
sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

The only place I actually saw penis envy
was in the men’s locker room at my gym
in Pittsburgh where the schlongs were on view

for all the asses to assess. Imagine my skin-cobwebs
while Dr. B, a senior analyst at the Pittsburgh Psycho-
analytic Institute, stood next to me, jay naked, and
obsessively flipped his scrotum with his hairy hand.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Its vocabulary was trochaic:
fleshy punches that punctuated his speech.
So, when I resigned from the Pittsburgh Institute,

gave up my faculty spot there, I sacrificed my
opportunity to otherwise enjoy Dr. B’s company
with his slaphappy scrotum. Freud wrote that
psychoanalysis was the “impossible profession.”
Had he had a premonition of analysts like Dr. B
thoughtlessly flicking their kerbangers with
impunity? Could that be why Freud sat outside

of the patient’s view—so no one could see what
the analyst was flipping? Or had Freud discovered
an ancient, heretofore forgotten, Zen koan:
What is the sound of one scrotum flapping?