Poems for the American Brother, by Max Stephan

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Poems for the American Brother, Max Stephan
Poems for the American Brother
Copyright 2020 by Max Stephan

"It's easy to read Poems for the American Brother as a single poem, an elegy with differing forms of sound and shape seamlessly united in focus and intent. Stephan's superb handling of syntax creates a finely tuned and honest voice that convincingly carries his fondness for his lost brothers home to the heart. These are moving poems brimful with weight and virtue."

—Marc Harshman
author of Woman in Red Anorak,
winner of the Lynx House Prize for Poetry,
and Poet Laureate of West Virginia
Poet Bio:
Max Stephan
Sample Poems:
I Died My First Death        Scirocco        After the Wake

Max Stephan

Max Stephan Max Stephan's poetry and prose have appeared in the North Dakota Quarterly, Appalachia, the Christian Science Monitor, the Broad River Review, the Main Street Rag, the Cold Mountain Review, Slipstream, the Potomac Review, Blueline, the Cimarron Review and the Louisiana Review, among others. Recently, Stephan was awarded a fellowship at the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, noted as a finalist in the Rash Award in Poetry Competition (2018, 2019), the Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest (2018, 2019), the Homebound Publications Prize (2019), and invited to write the featured story for the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Appalachia, honoring the work of the late Mary Oliver. Stephan teaches at Niagara University, specializing in Contemporary American Poetry; runs the university's poetry series, "Western New York Poets" and co-hosts "Second Stage Writers," a monthly reading series in the city of Buffalo, which brings together both young and established voices.
Learn more about Max Stephan at: maxstephan.net


I Died My First Death

sitting cross-legged two feet away from an RCA TV,
joystick in hand,
"Stampede" on Atari.

What I remember: Jeffrey's body
bouncing off of the couch,
grabbing the blue and white knitted afghan,
wrapping my limp, lame shape—
his muscles picking up the skin and bones lying on the floor,
carrying the possessed out to the station wagon
Charlie had pulled out of the garage and parked—

                                                                    sitting idle,

ready and waiting to race off to Mercy.

What I don't remember
carries no weight.

Resurrected from the dead
ten thousand times, and then
ten thousand times again:
on the basketball court, the soccer field
at the dining room table,
asleep in bed—
twenty thousand times,

but only one death to cherish.

Copyright ©2020 Max Stephan


Eight prom garters on the driver-side visor,
Loverboy in the cassette deck,
and Cindy in the bucket-seat beside you.

Jump ahead a couple chapters
and we're glued to the tube
watching "Hardcastle and McCormick"—
backs against the couch, butts on brown shag rug;
Bob Seger at the Aud,
Bills and Colts at Rich; and then

a ring on my sister's finger.

Who'da thunk—twelve years later
the two of us testing Nissans in La Jolla,
eating filet mignon,
chatting with neurologists.

                                     Time flies—

but I still think about that Scirocco
how pissed I was when you swapped it for a freakin' AMC Spirit;
the loukoumades your mother made for me;
your wandering eye.

They're all gone now,
                                                      gone for good.
But you're still here, still
keeping my sister safe, still
trumping, still
doing exactly what you want to do.

Copyright ©2020 Max Stephan

After the Wake

Before we left the funeral home,
I heard your voice—
Come on over—watch The Bear with me...

and without hesitation, a nod.

Mimicking the movie, we kept quiet,
laid down on the floor
like grizzlies in a den—
our sights fixed on the screen,

but thoughts drifting elsewhere,
struggling hard, so hard, to brush aside
the weighty what ifs and how comes

as we watched the orphaned cub brave the unknown,
the foster father fight off instinct's curse
of being a loner,
not needing love—

for, together, we were not alone;

and without voice, without selfish want,
we gave each other the love never lost.

Copyright ©2020 Max Stephan