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Wanda Lea Brayton

Wanda Lea Brayton is a former college librarian and construction news reporter. She has been writing poetry since 1973. Her poems have been accepted by Hudson View Poetry Digest, The Pedestal Magazine, Oak Bend Review, Aquill Relle, Main Street Rag and Clackamas Literary Review. She was the featured poet in March 2011 on the World Poetry site and her work has been read on the World Poetry Cafe Radio station in Vancouver, placed on display at various WP exhibitions (including at the Pablo Neruda celebration) and two other poems were then further exhibited at the John Lennon Peace Tower in Iceland. She has also been a featured poet on the Aquill Relle website and has 18 poems featured in the anthology On Viewless Wings vol. 5. Her book The Echo of What Remains: Collected Poems of Wanda Lea Brayton is available from


(My husband told me that he wants the following poem read after he passes away.)

When the light in my eyes no longer reflects the sun's slow repose,
when my smile will not lift when you pass my threshold,
when my fingers cannot compose another phrase
from the deep, fluent well of my many-chambered heart,

then release me gently,
for I am already on my way
to a finer, brighter place.

Do not try to retrieve a breath that will not be bartered.
Do not weep over my shell as though I could hear or comfort your grief.
Your tears will only make the river rise against its banks
and make my crossing much more difficult to bear.

Just loosen the knotted moorings and let me drift
to that distant shore where pain is unknown,

where laughter rings freely beneath buoyant clouds
as kites find their own way, without a tether to hold,
far above those gnarled branches that would bend them
and keep them, aching and bound.


Long have I contemplated this swerve, this curl
where thrumming so often swells—
bony fragments and ligature safeguarding the essence of life,
those quiet nuances and gestures of both laughter and tears.

Perhaps it is only a physical manifestation
of undetermined origins—

or maybe it is a slowly returning memory
of once-forgotten wings.

My Love's Hands

A reply to (my husband) Danny Beatty's poem for me,
"The Fingers Of My Love Are Rivers"

The breadth of my love's hands are rugged banks I flow between,
a sweet prevention of waters' rising too high, too fast to fathom,
destroying all in its furious path—
instead, I drift lazily, a summer's memory, golden and ecstatic,
a child once more of the forest where I dwell in peaceful reverie.

The birds orchestrate their performances
as the leaves' ballet begins and I weep with the wonder of it all;
he catches my tears and wisteria forms, a curl and swirl of lavender,
reflecting the mighty oceans that surge within his eyes.

His umber moan, his wild pony mane take flight beneath my gaze;
a swift burning urge to lift into the wind
and flee the bonds of earthen gestures, of surly skies
that would have us cast down among forgotten stars—
we shall not descend except to kiss
the butterfly wings as they unfurl from their chrysalis,
slightly confused and beautiful with their nascent unknowing.

His arms gather me.
His voice holds me, bestilled and burrowing into his warmth.
His fingers hold vast universes to enchant me, and do.
His storms are sudden—they soak me to the bone
and I seek shelter within the spaces between his clouds
and wait for his sun to return, glancing across the horizon
where wheat stalks wave underneath his boldness of breath,
his ferocity of gracious harvesting.

He holds the seasons in his grasp, lightly,
knowing precisely when to let them go,
watching them with quiet pride as they burst into bloom.

The breadth of my love's hands are rugged banks I flow between,
serene and glistening beneath tides of the moon.

We are angels among men, merely waiting
for our ribs to spread their remembered wings,
to seek the sky with purpose and gratitude
for the hard-earned knowledge of sustaining soil.

Author's notes:

"In the ocean are many bright strands and dark strands
like veins that are seen when a wing is lifted up.
Your hidden self is blood in those, those veins
that are lute strings that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf, the sound of no shore."

A Man for All Seasons

You came to me in Winter,
yet, you delivered Spring
with a single offering of lavender,
petals preserved and fresh
despite your long journey.

My bones had grown rigid and unresponsive
from the cold, but you were warm and boldly
reached for me with everything you knew —
years of knowledge, solitude and fervor
lent truth to what you did not say;
I watched you through my crooked glance,
undone by your demeanor and your vibrant hands.

You crossed my threshold with purpose,
without hesitation, smiling all the while
through your tired and happy eyes.
How could I resist and why would I even try?
You ventured hundreds of miles on faith alone,
driven by my weary voice, its timbre
already resonant within your heart.

Come with me, you said.
There will be room to grow
the gardens breathing beneath your touch,
pleading for release from this unrelenting chill.

How could I have guessed how bright and tender
Summer would finally and always be?


We are ripe for the precipice,
heavily laden on the cusp of virginal despair,
held aloft by a single breath shared—
don't let go of my hand
and I won't let go of yours.

Moments of separation slip through unnoticed
until we open our eyes in the midst of what we thought
was a dream and see we are falling fast
with jagged stones waiting beneath,
memories of what once were mountains,
now become hardened tears.

"If only" are two words sighed in regret, head in hand,
far too late for the salving of wounds,
long past the point of erasure for scars
we never meant to inflict—
stop. Think before you speak.
There is no going back to the moment right before
the hammer, the axe, the scythe descended upon us.

Graft these words to your heart and memorize their sound.
They are all that stand between us
and the gaping mouth of the world.

History, Seen Through Her Eyes

As he turned to go, he whispered
"I can never write you whole" —

it was spoken through perforations of history,
those ragged splinters cleft between two hearts.
their stitchings ragged with effort and futility —

one last thought offered
before the wretched sinking
beneath the waves of a drifting hand,
a quiet "fare thee well",

a final letting go.

The old oak door closed heavily,
a soft click of the lock, its punctuation —

silence sat in the corner,
its head bowed. Nothing moved —
not even shadows.

The sea had never seemed as subdued,
nor the rain as tender, as those first days and nights
without his presence filling this small room.

His coffee cup sits on the counter,
waiting to be warmed
("please, just once more"),

to be held between his rugged, sinewy hands
as he stared through the window
at what lay beyond,

somewhere out there

where I could never go,
where he knew I would not follow.

Sometimes in the morning,
before consciousness fully arrives,
I reach across the empty bed for him,
forgetting he is gone —

and then memory and gravity return,
clutching my fingers.

Author's notes:

Inspired by the first line of a poem by Vic F. ("I can never write you whole") and by the entirety of the poem "Sometimes in the Morning" by Merle Collins.

With Casual Breath

Inspired by "Sonnet XVII" by Pablo Neruda
For my husband

I do not love you with casual breath,
an unconscious act by which I only exist—
no, I inhale your scent and am captured in flight,
a wingéd creature with oceans of sky to traverse,
lost inside torrid thermals rising above mountainous ranges
with purpose, and with feasts of pure song.

I do not love you when the fire wanes on the hearth,
its glow fading deep into night, final sparks ascending
into the realm of innocent dream—
no, I embrace your warmth as we lay curled together,
fluttering flames that will not cease to illuminate
our surroundings with sweeter solace, scattering stars.

I will not love you as the sun claims its position
among billowing clouds, filtering sepia light where shadows
would shiver among the trees, petals drifting
as fruit becomes ripe and falls into our outstretched hands,
a gentle harvest unimaginable to those who weep
in their empty abodes, alone with memories.

I cannot love you with mere vagaries or ablutions,
for they could not contain the vastness of this utter delight,
this burrowing beneath my bones that causes my heart to sway
within its fragile folds, where life burgeons forth—
no, I cannot regale you only with hands or with words,
for they could never define these elegant sonatas
you etch upon my very soul from the simple complexities of your gaze.

Bouquet: for Sylvia Plath

Inspired by her poem "Tulips"

Ignore the loud stretching of flowers, Sylvia,
their breath aching toward an open sky—
their fragrance will evaporate soon enough
to forget how vivid they were.

Remember their tender roots, instead,
shuddering beneath the bitter soil that rages,
cracking under first frost’s leaden foot.

They retreat into the dusky dark,
their sinews yearning for warmth that wanes.

Ah, but there are still seeds whispering in the yard,
singing slowly those ancient secrets of Spring.

The blooms will wilt, as they are wont to do—
it is their duty to fade from trembling fingers’ grasp.

The petals will fall,
perhaps to be savored and saved for potpourri,
a scent that lingers long after the gift was given, and gone.

The mandates of survival require us to tend our gardens well,
to remove unwanted weeds
and thrust our hands into this daunting dirt—

our stems are stronger
than any wind that shivers through our lives.

There will always be more flowers to come—
it is only these moments alone
that are few, and fierce.

Fledglings Have Fallen

Fledglings have fallen from their nest,
a song in their ancient, rubied throats
lost to the descending darkness of an unmitigated demise.

Too soon they perished before they felt the rise
of primordial wind beneath their nascent wings.

They instinctively trusted the strength of the bough they breathed upon,
not understanding the power of an oncoming storm—
their parents trapped under turned leaves until it passed
and they could pursue home again.

When they arrived in the emptiness you left behind,
their music was muted by savage fear.

They dared not look for you,
knowing your tiny hearts had become
a long, strange melody they could not hear,
an odd mapping of blood on stones below their eyes.


Inspired by the novel, "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Moments may lodge in the tightening of our throats,
separated from sound; only a murmur comes,
or a moan, a sudden silence speaking volumes
never written or recorded in any language,
save that of a heart swelling, bursting its banks,
stunned into a precious pause that has no definition,
no borders etched on any map.

They can be seen in languishing gestures,
coiled inside cloaked shadows caused by a trembling hand
that reaches out, stops midway between here and where it meant to go,
then bravely goes on, gathering those same shadows
into something that finally makes sense.

They cannot be discerned under a sterile microscope,
nor viewed through a stargazer's eyes—they must be experienced
as an individual fragment of time that ceases to move, seen only
through the latticed whisper of a butterfly's stilled wing,
a portion of song given only to you only by the glistening smile
of a unanimous universe—there. Right there.
Just before you blinked.

Norma Jean

Inspired by Marilyn Monroe's poetry

Norma Jean,
your sinuous vines were meant for more
than bearing fruit, for gathering wind in your leaves,
curled against the storms.

The soil shuddered beneath your feet,
swaying within the onslaught of unrepentant tides.

You were golden,
a kinetic glow surrounding your skin
too many longed to touch, and tear.

When the wind grew too fierce,
you burrowed beneath your slow blankets of flame,
surging, trembling.

we are sustained by your tragic warmth,
restlessly drink from your wild vintage.


Flight is precious to those who are earth-bound;
we see this unending sky and covet wild wings
we do not have attached to our mortal frames, yet still,
our souls soar beside the fragile bird who lingers, aloft.

Steadfast, we long to seek those radiant realms
where moonlight swirls without falling; we drift
beside quiet streams and imagine the sea.

We are creatures of gravity,
soliciting the stars.


Like the sky, tenebrous—
I split, spilling remnants of song.
Wet bouquets gather into my arms,
dense language reminiscent of loam.

Categories defy mirror's soliloquy—
labels, obsequious without a discerning glance
for what comes seeking wind,
finding flame, instead.

Songs of Neruda

Inspired by an excerpt from the poem "Too Many Names" by Pablo Neruda

Flowers remember with tender bitterness
the wild and willful pleasure you found in a moment
composed of only roots and stones, neglecting
their fragile scents with your broad hand,
your brimming eyes.

They have forgiven you with songs of unfolding silk;
dusky petals drift fragrances slowly
across somber soil embracing you now.

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