Fred Everett Maus – Compassion

Fred Maus LEP&W V1 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One December 2022.

Compassion, poems by Fred Everett Maus.


As my friend spoke to me,
she began to weep. I saw tears
move down her face, leaving
wet lines, one line and then

another, each shining softly.
Her sadness, as though it was
mine, tore me.
Someone else, glancing over,

thought to bring tissues.
She spoke about her anger
toward her children,
how it frightened her.

A man described his Buddhist
teacher. “All his life,
he wanted to show others
a way to step forth

in their inner goodness,
to show themselves
as they are.” The man wept,
thinking about his teacher.

A man drowned puppies in
a large fish tank, one
and then another, forcing his
young son to watch. He said he

was teaching his son about
death. So the man was in trouble
with the law, and the
story was in the news.

The days were shorter and cooler.
Nights were cold.
In the morning, I thought the trees
were more beautiful now, wet branches

shining in pale sunlight.
A few yellow leaves still
held to the trees, gleaming
above piles of wet yellow.

I was alone. It was dark.
I played soft chords,
one and then another,
at the piano. I felt

the wholeness of each chord,
as though this music could
hold and soothe pain,
as though these sounds might

take pain away.
Later I thought
the gentle sounds distracted
and confused me.


I needed to send them away,
fondly, with one pithy touch,

each hand-made paper boat, edging
a night-time lake, each crisp faint craft

bedecked with tiny pencil lines, a fragment
of story or song, precisely formed, the lines

blurry where the water slurs them, dulled as
darkness advances, almost unreadable, prized,

scented with love, pain, longing, hate.
I needed to see each one through the dark,

not look away, a flare of clarity, and then
a finger nudge would send it

off to invisible. To gone. The tricky part
was finger control,

to push and not pull, and above all not
to clasp and crumple, worthless but still mine.

Missing Twin

I never think about him.
I know things about him.
For years on end, I forget about him.
He lived in cities, and he was
comfortable after dark, and it was
easy for him to meet people,
with many of whom he had dazzling sex.

My twin brother did a lot of things.
Some people looked down on him.
Nothing ever bothered him.
Warm, quick to like others, he was
quick to drop anyone who disapproved—
not angry, he just
lost interest, became unrelated.

Then, my twin brother died.
I’m not sure when.
My family never acknowledged him.
I was not told of his existence, and
I don’t believe he lived, though
I know that he did, and I long
to have met him.

I still want to meet him.
Probably, I would love him a lot.
Maybe we would be lovers.
He liked to dress simply, in jeans
and t-shirts, showing
his body, thin, well-shaped,
natural, wiry.

I am wary of him.
I would be afraid to see him.
He is distant, but kind.
I don’t remember when I first
knew he existed, but when I
think of him, my own reality
trembles a little.

I think he knows about me.
But who knows.
His mind moves so fast.
I remember I was lost, addled,
wandering in an old dark building,
endless, stale, and he was
there too, somewhere.

After puberty, I was a boy.
Before, I was a girl.
This simple fact was beautiful.
I knew I was a girl when I read
Alice in Wonderland,
when I read about Dorothy in Oz,
when I played with my friends.

She was not my mother.
She was a powerful witch.
I had been stolen.
I was terrified when she read me
a book about a kidnapped
boy, his feigned family – would she
see that I knew?

Later, I forgot everything.
She was not a witch any more.
I was never a girl.
Only then did I start to remember
my beautiful twin brother,
and to long for him to take
care of me, and I of him.

I know nothing about his life.
I know about his body, just like mine.
I will never be able to touch it.
I wish I understood what kind
of effort – praying, dreaming,
disciplines of sacrifice –
could bring him to me.

Did we make love, once, he and I?
I am trying to remember.
All I remember is tenderness.
Though we hardly knew each other,
our same bodies, naked,
knew each other’s needs

I searched in the newspapers.
Surely his death was noted.
But so many had died.
I was still a girl.
How could I forget that?
I was in a meadow, sunlit.
I didn’t know where to look.

© Fred Everett Maus

Fred Everett Maus is a musician, writer, and teacher. He teaches music classes on a range of topics. For example, a recent course on “Music in Relation to Sexuality and Disability” and a recurring contemplative course “Deep Listening.” He is a trained teacher of mindfulness meditation and Deep Listening, and a student of music therapy and object relations psychoanalysis. He has published prose memoir and poetry, for instance in Citron Review, Palette Poetry, Roanoke Review, and Vox Populi, and in and in Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2022 and September-October 2022.

He lives in a house in the woods north of Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Roma Norte, Mexico City. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness, which he co-edited with the late Sheila Whiteley, has just been published.

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