top of page

Beth Brown Preston

Still Life with Flowers

For Momma

“A good woman is not an artist by profession,” Momma warned me.
“She does not waste time writing immature poetry while surviving
on the money she earns by dancing topless in a
bar near Malcolm X Park.”
“She educates herself, finds a good job – a teacher or librarian -- ,
and supports her husband and her children with the fruit of her career.”
“When she retires then she can write novels and paint.”
Momma cautioned me about the dangers of an artist’s life
when in sixth grade I revealed that I wanted to write poetry.
I painted my first canvas as a high school senior:
“The Breast” -- an enormous painting of my bronze right teat.

I never painted with Momma’s skill:
the silent spaces between her flowers set them apart
as unique and lovely objects. She would seize her pencil or brush,
her instinct surrounding us with the rites of righteous imagination:
still life with fruit in a bowl
still life with flowers in vases.

Momma, I fell moaning from the mouth
of your womb calling my name a poet.
Now your canvasses remain so mysteriously alive
with memories of tulips, daffodils, and fleur-de-lis.

A Poet

 For Thomas Lux – February 5th, 2017

I wanted to be the moon to your sun.

My persistent vision is of you boldly strolling across 

a hushed college campus one August evening

a summer breeze ruffling loose the collar and cuffs 

of your carefully pressed white shirt.

You spoke to me eagerly without words, proud and erect,

regal of bearing, as you walked in the opposite direction,

concealing the emotion revealed on your face.

I still hear the plainsong chant of your melodious voice:

the echo of a refined music throbbing in my ears.

You were the poet after whom I named my second son.

Your imagination roamed the boundaries between good and evil,

poetry circling between life and death --

anointed and bathed in darkness or a pure white light,

your voice edged with a gentle and bittersweet satire,

a contrapuntal music, a point counterpoint.


I remember your final lecture: “The poet is a wanderer.”

“The poet gestures from beyond the horizons of language.”

“The poet divulges a personal cache of symbols

revealed to him in early morning visions.”


You turned your strong back to me and disappeared

into the arms of twilight’s chilling embrace.

bottom of page