Brian Culhane

A Meeting
December 12, 2013 Culhane Brian

A Meeting


Of all the disappointments

Consider those great men

Who passed each other smoking cigars

In some hotel corridor

Looking each for his own key,

Like Joyce and Proust meeting once

Just once!

And Joyce so tired he fell asleep at their dinner

(Proust rewriting a death scene

Months later fell asleep and died).

Think of that opportunity,

The amazing glittering remarks

On the novel‘s mimesis of time.

Or take the afternoon I met Kenneth Burke

Through his son-in-law who wrangled me an invitation

(To a farm in New Jersey, I recall).

I carried, fresh from grad school,

A copy of Grammar of Motives

The tousled-hair stooped philosopher inscribed

Which I have since lost.

Nor can I remember a single thing he said.

Once, in my father‘s last illness,

We spent a whole week alone together.

Each day I sponged and fed him,

And took his sugar count.

All that time he did not say a word,

Even when I‘d come with the needle.

I believe he probably knew I was there—

I‘m positive he did for one moment,

Our eyes meeting over the wreckage of his chest.

Then he moved his head, gravely,

As if just looking away to clear his thoughts,

Only to face the wall.




Brian Culhane’s poetry has appeared widely in such journals as Blackbird, The Cincinnati ReviewThe Hudson Review, and The Paris Review. Awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson Prize, his first book, The King’s Question, was published by Graywolf Press. He’s received fellowships from Washington State’s Artist Trust, MacDowell, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His second collection, Remembering Lethe, was published by Able Muse Press in 2021 and reviewed by Chelsea Wagenaar in Issue 127  of Plume.