lenten journal: two tables over


    I have great news: my friend, Nathan Brown, won the 2009 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry with his latest book, Two Tables Over. I know. The sentence begs a couple of questions:

    • They have poets in Oklahoma?
    • They give them awards?

    The answer to both questions is yes. Poetry does come out of Oklahoma, and it’s good. Nathan is a determined and gifted person who works hard at his craft and has a great deal to say. I quoted one of his poems a couple of days ago. Here’s another of my favorites from his new book.

    Taking it Back

    They stand there flash shocked
    in a black and white photograph
    right beneath the caption:
    55 Years Perfect Attendance.

    Turns out to be for Sunday School.

    His hand barely touches the back
    of her arm. They’re both
    uncomfortable with the contact.

    Tiny, frightened eyes panic
    behind big bifocal lenses.
    They’re thinkin’ about the drive home
    in front of a dirt road dust cloud
    that will eventually settle somewhere
    far to the east on the grassy plain.

    And, you know?

    I was going to wind this down
    to a great, sarcastic finish . . .
    something to do with religion.

    But, honestly, I’m touched by such
    commitment. People like this actually
    still exist. And there’s something
    I know I should be grateful for
    in the way they balance out
    a world gone mostly mad.

    Treat yourself to a volume of Nathan’s poetry (he has five). You will find something to feed your heart and you will help him pay some bills. Turns out, though the Oklahoma Book Award is a great honor, it doesn’t come with much of a cash prize.



    1. I know you’re joking, but the question “Do they have poets in Oklahoma?” didn’t sound like something I’d expect to hear you say.

    2. Barbara,

      It is a long-standing joke between my friend Nathan and me; it reminds me of the verse that says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Insert big smile here.)


    3. Milton,

      thanks for explaining to this Oklahoma native (insert big smile back) I hope this isn’t sign I’m losing my Okie-bred sense of humor …

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