Brain Mill Press is so pleased to present our first set of poets participating in Brain Mill Press Celebrates Poetry Month 2015. This group of poets responded to the poem prompt WORK. April 30th, watch for our second prompt and the last chance to be entered to be chosen as a winning poet by Brain Mill Press editors. We’re moved and honored to present these poets and their poems to you.

On Growing Up
by Elizabeth Berry

On the day that my grandfather died
my grandmother
lit a cigarette
looked down
at the stricken faces of her children
and said
well, we still have
this farm to take care of.
My mother, then eight, looked
out the window
at the cows that crowded the fence, waiting for food,
for release from the
swollen udders,
and beyond
at the hay, tall in the fields,
and at the tractors resting in the sheds,
waiting
for the long legs of morning to
walk up and turn the key.

At eighteen, my mother,
as lean and brown as a leather strap
covered her face and veiled her
reasons
to follow my father a hundred miles
from home.

Three kids in three years.

Mortgage

yard

car

pool

PTA

Low money, no money,
grocery store clerk, pregnant daughter, baby crying all night, no lights, pay that bill but
another’s coming.

And so it went for thirty years.
Yet every month
they would drive back
over the mountain as visitors, and sit,
drinking tea until the cows moaned
and the others rose to go to work.

Occasionally,
reluctant to unclasp ourselves from
the circle of laughter and soft shadows that floated down from the familiar ceilings,
we would follow them
to the cool concrete floors,
and clanging gates
of the milking barn.
My mother, face lit by the glow
of the yellow interior lights,
moved quickly
to lead,
to coax the herd into position
and nodded with satisfaction
when they lined up,
and did their jobs.


Refracting
by Audrey T. Carroll

Not the gentle crashing of ocean against
grains of glass or the air against
photosynthesizing branch

The crashing of steel against steel,
wheel and rail complaining against
one another until one topples the other
sends it careening

Time folds in on itself.

State to state or borough to borough?
Concerns for type of steel bullet give way to
concerns for a mother traveling, perhaps
by train that day

Rushing to an office
that no kindergarten teacher should have—
Principal, maybe? Professor?
Hers? Mine?

Time folds in on itself.

Longer I look
in the mirror, more I see her
reflection staring back in
the way nose widens to smile,
hand-me-down teacher’s clothes

Time folds in on itself.

Wake unsure what state I’m in.

Audrey T. Carroll is an MFA candidate with the Arkansas Writer’s Program. She graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Susquehanna University.  Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Fiction International, Hermeneutic Chaos, Foliate Oak, Writing Maps’ A3 Review, The Cynic Online Magazine, and others.


Dedication Is Gold
By Megan Ryan

I’ve started in school
Taking detailed notes
That covered every page
Studying for hours
Preparing for tests.

I was an overachiever
Getting A’s and B’s
Was a valedictorian in 8th
Then saludictorian in 12th.

College was the challenge
Taking on monstrous courses
That tested my skills
To see if I had what it takes.

I tumbled and fell,
But I didn’t give in
Kept climbing to the top
To reach the peak of success
As the sun shined upon me.

Five years passed
Got my degree
Now I needed a job
Easier said than done.

Kept searching high and low
Been applying everywhere
Practicing and improving
For upcoming interviews.

Though nothing has come along
Been about three years now
Yet I’m not giving up
I’m sure the time will come
When my dream job appears
For this hard-working achiever.


Code of Iron
by Kim Solem

Men of iron
Climb the sky
Some will fall
A long way to die
No single one of them
Has ever screamed or cried
In agony and horror
On their deadly dive
Because Iron Workers
Live and die by this code
‘When you’re falling’
‘Meet your death bold’


Once Upon a Holiday Moon

by Kim Solem

The Monday after Halloween
I laid down the law to my employees
“You’d better be here on the job
On both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve”

And if you don’t like what I have to say
Look for someplace else that pays
Cause here in the good old USA
It’s your boss’s way, or the highway”

Much to my surprise no one protested
Not one dared even chirp
Except for old Mable,
Who slowly turned round
Bent over,
And lifted up her skirt

Pulling down her bloomers
All the way to her ankles
She looked over her shoulder
Then said with a smirk,
“You can kiss my old bare ass
Cause this girl won’t be a slave
For some asshole of a jerk”

I was shocked to say the least
And before I could show Mabel the door
All my other employees
Turned round, then bent over
And let their pants hit the floor

Now I ask you my fellow Americans
What sort of country
Allows folks to moon their boss?
Let alone even dare
Try to back talk?

No wonder we send jobs to China
And some to Cameroon
No one there would try to moon
A rich and powerful tycoon

My tale of woe gets worse
After filling out all those pink slips
When I left my office, what did I find?
All my employees picketing
In long strike line

And you know who was leading it?
That damn old Mable
Holding a hickory stick
“Oh Shit!”

So heed my warning
My fellow entrepreneurs
Before telling folks to dance to your tune
There just might be one
Employee like old Mable
Who’s not afraid
To show you the moon

Author’s Note: Forgive me but within every pretentious poet, there is a thirteen year old, dying to get out.


More Women on the Board

by Karen Wellsbury

Not enough women on the board,
mainly made of men.
How they will be lured,
not enough women on the board?
Is this sexism to be cured,
to break the male dominated hoard.
Not enough, women on the board
mainly maid of men?

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