Moving Day

Dreams got tired,
settled in my head.

Stopped working, 
didn’t move much.

Tried to nudge them
back into action — 

they knocked me back,
refused point blank.

I’ve had to let them
take up space.

I’ve learned to let them
do little and rest.

No idea if they’ll someday
turn back to their tasks.

No idea if I’ll be invited
along to do my part then

or if we’ve run
our conjoined course.

If I’m left behind,
may they find a road

to somewhere
they can really move.

My head has grown too tight.
My head is too small

for them to work, I know.
I get that now.

In spite of that I tried.
I did. I tried to make a space

for them up there,
but there was never enough room.

They spilled stunted
works and I know they felt 

every pain I did over that,
but harder, longer, sharper.

I tell them they can go. So far,
they remain in place;

surprised, I think, 
that it has come to this.

When they leave — and
they will leave —

there will be sorrow
but also a release of long-tense breath.

Perhaps something new
then for those dreams. It’s fine.

They were never truly mine.
They just lived here for a while.


Abeyance

Put the world in abeyance
as singers are passing and dancers
are passing from among us;
these will be spaces
we cannot fill at once. 

Put this life we’ve known in abeyance.
How far we have yet to go is uncertain,
and with the holes in the map
left by the passage of those
who knitted lives together, our way is unclear.

Put the long view in abeyance;
measure progress now by inches
or less. Creeping forward without song,
blind to the path, each step a martyr’s 
touchstone in the pavement;

there is now, in fact and fiction,
only today. Put tomorrow
in abeyance while waiting for 
a new song, a new dance,
a new map for what’s ahead.


The Foragers

Outside the Dollar Tree
on Providence Road
which is strangely closed
at two-thirty
on a Saturday afternoon —

no sign, no explanation.

Several of us standing 
widely spaced before it,
having heard 
a rumor of a delivery

of needed things —
I’m getting a hunch
I’m afraid to share.

A newish SUV shows up
and a guy leans out 
of the passenger window:

“Is it closed? We heard
it was closed for two weeks —
someone on the staff
tested positive –“

“Shit.” 

“We heard there’s a delivery
at Walmart, they’re staggering
the times they put stuff out.”

We scatter slowly
as civilized people do,

every one of us walking
to our cars as wary of the others
as if we were all
carrying spears.


Words At Night

Words now come
more often at night
than in daylight.

I would like to say
there’s a good reason,
but there’s not.

All day I fight and 
drain, struggle and 
sink. By bedtime

I have barely enough
breath left to admit
my terror out loud, 

but I push myself
into the keyboard and try
to come back out with

something fresh and hopeful,
even though often
I choke on the effort

before falling into 
a sleep I wouldn’t wish
on anyone: one so rife with dying

that most days I wake up dry
and brittle, my head a casket
full of other people’s bones.

No wonder I cannot
move for an hour
after waking, and no wonder

that to rise from bed
is akin to digging out.
Don’t ask me to give you art

made in daylight.
You’ll read it and

reek of graves.

Instead, 
take the words
that come to me at night,

when there’s at least
still hope we’ll wake up
alive tomorrow and stay alive.

 


A Little Dark Musk

He was not usually
given to nostalgia,

by which I mean
he routinely lived
without surrendering
to a suspect, edited version
of his own past.

However, he’d recently taken to recalling
past intimacies: dim lit faces; 
the sound of close beloved breath
in the dark; doing this not so much
(he told himself) 

out of nostalgia
as from a longing to hold onto
as many people as possible
for as long as possible
while facing a tidal wave of loss;

the people he had known best,
known their best and their worst,
who’d known him at his best
and his worst, the ones
who’d taught him his full identity
in the dark corners
of long-lost bedrooms. 

It was not for lust or love,
not from a yearning for rekindling,
not even a touch of what might have been;

it was because his world had faded
to such a pale imitation of life
that he hoped
a little dark musk from the past
might remind him
of how bright it might still be.


Polytheism

Originally posted 2014. Revised.

This God the atheists
do not believe in

is nothing like the Ones I know
who have always been

as numerous as leaves,
slippery as free mercury,

devoid of faces, disinclined
to interfere even when implored

as they are yoked to larger purposes
than we can know — purposes

they serve as surely 
as we do our own. 

Omnipotence, they laugh,
is a child’s dream — 

what God of Sound Mind
would desire that

considering how much
needs doing in the universe?

Having spoken they turn back
to their 
appointed tasks,

not caring much at all
whether or not we follow.


Live performance….?

If anyone’s interested, I’ll be livestreaming a performance of my work at 7PM Eastern Daylight Time, US on my Facebook page:

Dark Matter: Tony Brown’s Poetry Blog


Meeting In A Time Of Contagion

We talk to each other from across streets
and through screens now, slowly becoming
acquainted with the low-touch rules; still, when I

see a long lost friend in a store, someone I thought
had moved to Florida decades before, it is natural 
and innate that we shake hands in the center aisle

and then immediately with regret we both look at the floor
and say, “we probably shouldn’t have done that,” and so
the conversation continues for the requisite few minutes

of catch up before we move on to his purchase 
and my car, though I stop in the lobby before I go
and scrub myself with wipes meant for cart handles

and door knobs, the sting of the sanitizer tearing into
the cracked skin on my hands like the fire of knowing
that acknowledging joy and friendship without thought in these days

might be fatal to one of us or to someone we love
or someone we never even meet, as if we are the wings 
of the metaphorical butterfly who destroys the entire world — 

as if we have never been
that disastrous before all this happened
simply by living our casual consumer lives.


For The Fancydancers

Within days
of the contagion’s start

something inside took over,
rolled my hands
into chafed red fists,

and started punching through 
my pale shell. 

I spend my mornings now
watching fancydancing videos:
little girls in jingle dresses,
little boys in full regalia
stomping, tall men and women
raising their arms 
against the contagion
on small and common snow-iced lawns,
on the edges of empty roads, 
in furrows left in winter land
by spring and summer plowing;
all of them elsewhere,

west of here, beyond this city
crowded still with unbelievers
shopping for safety from what
they don’t yet fully believe 
is already among them,
is no longer a rumor of plague
east and west of here,
but no, not here.

West of here
is where the people are dancing
toward healing. 

I think of my sister,
sick as sick can be now,
in her jingle dress
at eighteen.

Whatever is inside me
pokes me gently, reminds me
of smallpox blanket stories,
says: this is how we survived.

This is how we got through so much.


The Animal Song

This is an animal that needs to be trapped
with its fireplace pelt and its bulging frame
with its mimic cries and its fat thick name
This animal needs to be trapped and tamed

This is an animal needing a cage
with its long reach and hoarseness and rape and disease
with its cavalier blubbering face full of lies
This animal needs to be taken and held

This is an animal that must come from here
with our painted-over history and veneer on our God
with our love for the surface and our hate for the horses
we used to get here then shot and consumed

This is an animal on a stage we provided
This is an animal foaming with contagion
This is an animal that needs to be caged
This is an animal we bred for our needs


Clutch, Cling, Slip

Waking up talking out loud —

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING

recall
the morning glories
climbing the chain-link fence
one tendril crossing the face
of the arborvitae in the neighbor’s yard

the monster heat of the bonfire
on Fourth of July
in the sandpit

what it was like to breathe and taste
before cigarettes

leftover vinyl of artie shaw
discovered in best friend’s barn
scratched to fusstone but still
revelatory

orchards in abandoned farms
gone back to poplar and scrub ferns
timid among the rotten fruit

lying awake at night
with nothing but dark and not
caring that there was no sound

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING —

recall
names and dimlit backyards
names on shallowcarved school desks
names and names
and blame
and fervent hope of notice and friendship

stumbling fingers on the first joint
rolled with single wide papers
praying it wouldn’t fall apart before
the watchful gods of freakdom

recall
rare birds and longed-for cars 

far from famous bands
gone to accountancy and parenthood

slinky patch jeans and embroidered 
Big Daddy Roth army coats

recall
the first switchblade
hash pipe
condom stolen from dad’s drawer
long before the first
kiss

recall
hopeful
waking up
talking blue in the face

Fresca and vodka

recall
sweating in the middle of a broke-ass broken sleep
waking up talking VERY LOUDLY

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING

everything inside is solving itself for zero
cutting larger and larger holes into this being
with its comfortable shoes and sensible coat
with skin and graying hair gone to pot
this battling hydra refusing suddenly
to grow its old head back

everything
yes

EVERYTHING


Wednesday Morning, March 18, 2020

Almost forgetting.
Delighting at the silence
in the street. Then: oh.

Sparrow waiting
until I finish the trash.
Settles back upon the feeder

as if nothing has changed.
Birds rioting here and
in the next yard. 

I leave the TV news off
as long as I can
but danger tugs the remote

into my hand. So much
for silence. So much for the 
delight. So much — oh. 


Everyone

Everyone’s planning
to become the fictional
heroes of historical novels
no one’s written yet.

Everyone’s
not quite
far enough
from each other.

Everyone’s 
in the soup
and no one’s felt
the scalding heat yet.

Everyone’s got
a lonely shoulder and
a broken throat to call from,
though not many have started.

Oh, everyone.

Think about this:
all the people
you could have been, 
and you still turned out to be everyone.


Repost: eBooks for sale

Just bumping this up for visibility.  Another of my sources of income is in imminent danger of being reduced or eliminated as a result of the necessary distancing likely coming up, so anything from any source is becoming important. Thanks in advance.

New poems will be coming very soon!  Time has been precious, as I suspect it is for many of us right now.

Please take care of yourselves first and foremost, good luck, and, y’know, WASH YOUR HANDS.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am making 8 eBooks/PDFs of my work available for sale to those who might be interested.

They’ll only be available here for the moment; all were previously offered as rewards to various tiers of my Patreon subscribers, a program I will be continuing there, btw.

The titles include:
—  Three annual “best of” collections from 2017, 2018, and 2019
— “Then Play On,” a chapbook of poems about music
— “Pushpins and Thumbtacks,” a volume about icons and cliches of American culture
— “Noted In Passing,” from 2012 that was a limited edition written for a single feature
— “White Pages,” my collection of poems related to race and its role in my life
— “Decay Diary,” a collection of poems about aging

Minimal # of repeats among the collections.

I’m working on converting them all into both PDF and ePUB format over the next day or so. Right now, I have them all as PDFs and four of them as ePUBs.

If you are interested, let me know. Right now thinking 1 for $5 through Paypal, 3 for $12. We can talk about more if you want more.

Thanks.

Please let me know if you are interested through my email at tony.w.brown AT gmail.


eBooks for sale…

In the interest of some financial need, I am making 8 eBooks/PDFs of my work available for sale to those who might be interested.

They’ll only be available here for the moment; all were previously offered as rewards to various tiers of my Patreon subscribers, a program I will be continuing there, btw.

The titles include:
—  Three annual “best of” collections from 2017, 2018, and 2019
— “Then Play On,” a chapbook of poems about music
— “Pushpins and Thumbtacks,” a volume about icons and cliches of American culture
— “Noted In Passing,” from 2012 that was a limited edition written for a single feature
— “White Pages,” my collection of poems related to race and its role in my life
— “Decay Diary,” a collection of poems about aging

Minimal # of repeats among the collections.

I’m working on converting them all into both PDF and ePUB format over the next day or so. Right now, I have them all as PDFs and four of them as ePUBs.

If you are interested, let me know. Right now thinking 1 for $5 through Paypal, 3 for $12. We can talk about more if you want more.

Thanks.

Please let me know if you are interested through my email at tony.w.brown AT gmail.

Thanks in advance,
Tony