John Brehm

I Decided to Weigh My Head
September 19, 2019 Brehm John


Was it really as heavy as it felt?
I got the scale out
from under the bathroom sink.
That’s where it lives,
tilted on its side,
resting in its zeroes.
Would my head weigh more
than the Collected Works
of Anthony Trollope?
More than my overfed
tuxedo cat?
Would my jittery thoughts
balance out
my mournful ones?
Or would my head reveal itself
to be largely empty, like
the universe
which it contains,
as I’d often feared
and sometimes wished?
I realized I would need a mirror.
I lay down
on the bathroom tile,
pillowed the scale
under the back of my skull,
held the hand-mirror at arm’s length
and took a good look
at myself,
the absurdity of my situation,
a grown man lying
between toilet and tub
wearing the slightly
anticipatory expression
of a person who has decided
to weigh his head.
The number floated above me
as in a thought-bubble
and I had my answer: 8.8 lbs.,
two infinities
turned rightside up,
the Eightfold Path doubled,
the number of years my father lived
minus the decimal,
and about half as heavy
as I’d imagined
this thing my spine had evolved
to lift into the air and carry
above the earth
would be.

John Brehm’s new book of poems, No Day at the Beach, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press in January 2020. He is the author of Help Is on the Way and Sea of Faith, and editor of The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy. He lives in Portland, Oregon.