Brent Goodman

brent goodman photo

Brent Goodman is a writer, musician, and Wisconsin native. A recipient of an Artist Fellowship Award from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Brent completed an MFA in Poetry from Purdue University in 1995. His two poetry collections both appeared in 1999: Trees are the Slowest Rivers (Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press), and Wrong Horoscope (Thorngate Road Press), which won the Frank O'Hara Chapbook Award. Poetry publications in print and online journals include Poetry, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Green Mountains Review, Puerto Del Sol, The Cortland Review, as well as in the anthologies American Poetry at the End of the Millennium and The Wisconsin Poets Calendar.

A jazz guitarist and keyboard player, Brent has collaborated musically with several Madison groups, including King Club regulars Special Deluxe and Lisa G. He's composed and performed pieces as musical director for Francine Conley's one-woman shows The Purse Project and Windows. His original music has also been featured on the soundtracks for two Wisconsin Film Fest Documentary winners, Gretta Miller's The Sid Boyum Sculpture Project (2002), and What is Normal? (2001), a film by Mary Jo Oathout.

The Way of Water

is the weight of water.
Ask the Fox Valley,
or the migration of herons
from one harsh climate
to the next.

They bear their disappearance
like a web of veins
in each wing.  A map
you've known from birth is there
in the wing,
in the river delta –

you can see it from the air
as if you've just unfolded its mystery
across a wide table and stepped back, arms
still opening. The weight of water

is the way of water,
the Wisconsin river carving its path
through layered sandstone bluffs.
This is how one thing
shapes another:

through migration,
another landscape always waiting
like grief in our chest, always asking
more questions. This is how
a new space opens:

at the end of every river
this whitewater tumble,
this rising mist,
this quiet, clear pool.


Coat Rack

Zadee, tell me:
how long was your passage?
Where will you keep your violin case
stuffed with tea bags?

Four winter caps tugged down
over your eyes, shoulders weighted thick
with what clothes you could ferry
from the old world – your heartbeat

so muffled I didn't hear you enter.  Forgive me
if I stumble through the rough landscape
of your language. All the faded maps
lost, the only scraps left a few

present tense verbs. Is that wood smoke
or keening woven into your shirt sleeves?
Why are all your shoes tipped
and waiting near the door?


Self Guided Walking Brochure
– Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford, Illinois

(the larger waterfall)
I fear I've just humbled myself before the wrong gate.
What I first dreamed a bamboo water clock – alternately
flooding and tilting to empty itself, the hollow tapping of cane
against stone each time – I now discover, is, in fact,
a deer chase.  I begin to believe I should read more signs
before inventing my own.  This O Taki took three years to build.
The rocky trail to its heights is closed for planned expansion.

(inner garden)
Crouching beside me near the pale slate border of the Naka Niwa,
my friend, born deaf, traces in the air the subtle outline of a river's current
raked in sand before us, this bed of tumbled stones dreaming themselves
so many tiny brushstrokes in an impressionist landscape. It's then
the guide appears behind us in pleated brown slacks, khaki button down,
clearing her throat to inquire whether we have questions, or if
we'd prefer to simply meditate.

The gold patterned koi move beneath a veil of reflection.
Here again, circles overlapping: lily pad, fish eye, cloud shadow.
Before the pond, we are silent. I mean to say I am learning
to understand silence. His hands blossom into sign. Mine grip the railing. Watching
silent together: glowing bodies rise from the depths
and hover, breathing just below the surface.