Brian Culhane

Two poems from Brian Culhane’s Remembering Lethe

followed by a note on the author



This time of year, I always think of winters
Met in Russian novels, the snows on the river
Crossed by a bridge of prose, and someone
Waiting on the far side whose breath spirals
Up into the heavens, whose body leans over
An iron railing, whose spirit is as radiant as ice;
And I am reminded of those long afternoons
Wholly absorbed by aristocratic intrigue—
With carriages and dress balls and mothers
Standing in the wings; how in bemusement
I lovingly partook of my favorites’ vexations,
Warming my hands by the fire of their passions.
So I passed the bitter evenings of my youth,
Lost in a world lost to me and to the world.


A Large Fine River God Almost Intact

Five centuries back, from a pit in Rome,
A large fine river god was slowly raised
Almost intact, but for the beard’s clipped stone.
A crowd wondered how time’s arrow had grazed
Just that bit, leaving the lithe limbs alone
(One arm coiled to throw a spear), amazed
War and flood dislocated hair, not bone,
And left a slivered fault on which men gazed.
Then Michelangelo said Bring me clay!
And promptly showed how the beard had been worn
Knotted in front.
No master’s touch today.
What have I dredged from the marl? From mind torn,
Nude and broken? It is myself I find—
My sunlit flaw a hairline crack in rhyme.

Brian Culhane’s first book, The King’s Question, was awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson Prize and subsequently published by Graywolf Press. His poetry has appeared most recently in The Hudson Review, The Cincinnati Review, and is forthcoming in Plume. He lives in Seattle and teaches English at Lakeside School.

“Tolstoyan” and “A Large Fine River God Almost Intact” first appeared in Sewanee Review.