Winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize, Braver Deeds is a harrowing exploration of violence in all its permutations. Rigorous and unflinching, Young takes his readers through the labyrinth of a harrowing domestic landscape that shares equivalence with war and the cruelest battlefield.

Thoughts on No Braver Deeds:

It is here, where adversaries stubbornly dig in, losses are heavily borne upon the soul, and reconciliation is often the most painful maneuver of all.

These sixty-two minimalist, prose-like poems, etched by the artisan’s lapidary hand and burnished by the fateful elements, display the full character of Gary Young’s gift: the unflinching candor, the breath-taking sleights-of-hand, the physical and spiritual suffering that serve as a flame to the moth of his consciousness. Like a modern-day realist’s morality tales, these poems are backed by a moral purpose as compelling and dramatic as it is instructive and wise. This is a book one must wrestle with as well as read.

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Poems from Braver Deeds

Kitty smiled, pressed my hand against the fleshy knot in her belly, and said, it’s the child we always wanted, or as close as we’ll ever get now. A malignancy, not a pregnancy, was swelling inside her. She’d caress it with her palms, and as the tumor grew, she mothered it; she brought it to term. One night she woke with a fever, and I carried her into the hospital. Her wasted arms and legs made her belly seem even larger than it was. A woman asked, are you in labor? And she said, no. Then the woman asked, but are you expecting? And she said, yes.

In New Jersey, a couple pulled a man from his car, shot him, and locked him in a box to die. They’d had a plan, but their plan fell through. They were captured, and the woman claimed she’d been forced; she had never wanted to do it. When she testified against her husband, someone shouted, what do you think of your wife now? And he turned, and said, I love her. The stories I must tell myself about myself seem even more pitiful repeated in the history of others.

I discovered a journal in the children’s ward, and read, I’m a mother, my little boy has cancer. Further on, a girl has written, this is my nineteenth operation. She says, sometimes it’s easier to write than to talk, and I’m so afraid. She’s left me a page in the book. My son is sleeping in the room next door. This afternoon, I held my whole weight to his body while a doctor drove needles deep into his leg. My son screamed, Daddy, they’re hurting me, don’t let them hurt me, make them stop. I want to write, how brave you are, but I need a little courage of my own, so I write, forgive me, I know I let them hurt you, please don’t worry. If I have to, I can do it again.

Crushed by love, and by a war that wouldn’t end, I abandoned God in nineteen sixty-eight. I thought God had abandoned us all. The world might still exist, if I could hold it in my mind, but there were people, all around me, whose lives were more desperate, and more wonderful, than anything I could imagine. There is an emptiness so great, not even the suffering of others can fill it. God is the chance that anything can happen, then it happens.

The bodies of men and women sometimes ignite from within, and burn from the inside out. Nothing remains but a pile of ash where only minutes before a girl had been lying on the beach, or a young man had complained of the heat and then burst into flame. How can we explain the world? My heart is beating, I can feel it. God loves us more than we can stand.


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