Small Sorrows

You can start anywhere,
you can start with the hummingbird
that quivers at the feeder, or with a moon
lost in the corner, or the stray dog who creeps
to my window and breathes. But not with
the Lebanese woman on TV who sobs as she
trudges back to her house of rubble.

How can I tell you my small sorrows?
In Slovenia, at the Nazi prison in Begunje,
you can see the last writing of two British
soldiers. On the stone of a shared cell, each
scraped the facts he pared himself down to:
name, address, parents, schools, date of enlistment,
rank, battalion, date and place taken prisoner, and
the date which became the year of death.

I didn’t want to start there.
I don’t want to end there. But no matter where I start,
or end, I will tell you—that if I could
touch you, I would become a hummingbird, a hidden,
shining center. And the dog—she would
press her small, strong back into my hip.

by Deborah Brown

Poetry Centre announcements: Two poets based at Oxford Brookes, Steven Matthews and Claire Cox, have written poems in response to photographs by a Brookes colleague, Sabine Chaouche. The opening of the exhibition, ‘Poetry of Forms, Forms of Poetry’, is on Thursday 3 May from 12-1pm in the Tonge Building, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford. All are welcome.

On Friday 4 May, the Poetry Centre launches its monthly podcast. The first episode features local poet Claire Cox, who reads and discusses her poem ‘Tolstoy at Astapovo Station’. You will be able to listen to the podcast via the Poetry Centre website, or download it from iTunes.

‘Small Sorrows’ is copyright © Deborah Brown, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from Deborah Brown’s book Walking the Dog’s Shadow, which was selected by Tony Hoagland as the 2010 winner of BOA’s annual A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize and published by BOA in 2011. Together with another BOA poet, Michael Waters, whose work we featured on 24 October, Deborah Brown was recently announced as a Pushcart Prize winner, with the title poem from her collection selected to appear in the Pushcart Prize anthology, due out in November.

Notes from BOA Editions:

Deborah Brown was co-editor, with Maxine Kumin and Annie Finch, of Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics, and co-translator, with Richard Jackson and Susan Thomas, of The Last Voyage: Selected Poems by Giovanni Pascoli (Red Hen Press, 2010). Her poems have appeared in Margie, Rattle, The Alaska Quarterly, Stand, The Mississippi Review, and others. Brown teaches literature and writing at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, where she won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband, George Brown, and four cats. You can read two further poems by Deborah Brown at

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