You Can't Go Back, Exactly
(Revised, expanded edition)

Paperback: 103 pp.
Published: 2003

Price: $16.95




Recapturing the freshness of youthful summers in Wisconsin, at Camp Nebagamon for Boys, the poet writes with gentle tenderness of a father’s love of his son, of the strength of friendship, and of the resonance of memory and time.




In You Can’t Go Back, Exactly, Louis Daniel Brodsky shows us, with delight and poignancy, how "a few of Earth’s miracles work." While we never may be able to go back, exactly, we have the good fortune, through Mr. Brodsky’s great skill in measuring the distances between past and present "with metaphor and rhyme-chime," to have, for a moment, a fleeting glimpse of a lake cabin’s screen door kept "from closing, forever," while the deepest wisdom of the heart is ". . . forever in the dripping sunset’s net." The father knows that the ritual he initiates in bringing his son to camp "Contains the same words and phrases / The Lord spoke to Abraham about Isaac," while the poet celebrates a return to "this sacred place" where the beauty of the ephemeral and the wonder of the eternal become one.

— Darlene Mathis-Eddy, former poetry editor for Ball State University’s Forum


Covering over five decades, these poems capture the exuberance of youthful, carefree summers, the bittersweet experiences of life and aging, the strength of abiding friendships, and the sometime troubled but always enduring love of a father and his son.

— Robert W. Hamblin, from his paper presented at the annual meeting of the College English Association, St. Louis, Missouri, March 27, 2008

To read his full paper, click here.





Keep the Fires Burning

When winter comes,
Who will hear the silent pines whining,
Grieving your absence
From this sacred land?
And which of you will still be listening
To the sandy, soft-trod paths
Pumiced under running feet?
Will the lake's prevailing breezes,
Which billowed spinnakers,
Still fill sleep's retreats
When dreams won't sail an even course?

I know the answer to everything —
It's friendship, boys!
It wends through spruces and pines,
Insinuates itself into lake waters,
Carves your faces on scrimshaw moons;
It sits beside you at dinner
And hides beneath your pillowed head.
Who can deny this precious essence,
Covenants made at season's end,
When snow and rain
Detain the slower spirit?

Today, I'm witness to summer's grace.
You're the ones, boys! This is the place!
I beg you never to forget
This ritualed myth of immortality,
Your earthly birth
Here at Camp Nebagamon.
Being born comes fast, sometimes.
Initiation is always swift.
For some, wisdom matures
In a youngster's mind,
While others take a lifetime to arrive.

Boys! Boys! This is the truth!
Haven't you guessed yet?
Manhood is that ageless moment
When all else falls away
Except the promises you made
To stay in touch, forever,
With those who breathed and slept,
Ate and played and prayed with you.
You, boys, tomorrow's men,
Will always be memory's mates
When you say the word "friend"

And, again and again,
"You're my friend!"


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