Monthly Archives: September 2022

Balloons

In a park, I recognize
a family in tears 
as they release balloons

for a son killed a few days ago
in a confrontation with
police.

I hear someone near me grouching
about the environmental impact
of a balloon release

and no one talking about
the environmental impact
of a boy being dead

as the balloons rise away.


Tenor Guitar

I owned
a tenor guitar
once
for three months.

Four strings
over six seemed a 
novelty, a downgrade 
back then.

It tickled
something in me
to think of mastering
the antique. Soon enough

I gave 
the guitar away
to someone more excited
than I was to try.

This morning
found myself humming
Ani’s “Little Plastic Castles”
(which is played on a tenor guitar)

and memory,
all this memory, came
rushing back
and now I want a tenor guitar again,

longing for
four strings I can’t play,
rebooting since
I can no longer play six:

my hands
full of recall
but unable to execute;
the desire for music

stronger now
as a way through this 
to something
newly perceived as fresh although

I have
been here before:
more than once, with old guitars
and fancy pens, blank notebooks

and blank people,
things I bought or faces I found
that seemed to promise
surprise, any kind of surprise

that might
break the hard walls
of the hole within and give me
a chance to climb out and be new and free. 


Strike Anywhere

wooden matches in
cellophane-sealed packs
three boxes to a package

found when I pried open
a cabinet drawer on the back porch
unopened for years

wrenched it open
with brute force and
a big screwdriver

that was all
that was inside
how old could these be

as the fireplace was sealed 
decades ago and
the wood stove was removed

when my father
could no longer cut wood
and my mother didn’t want

to pay someone
to do it when the kids were too
far away to do it for free

this is why
the house has seemed so
cold for so long

they couldn’t get
to the matches
and there was nothing

and nowhere here
to set a safe fire
and make the home warmer

strike anywhere
printed on the boxes
but why test it when there’s

no reason and no hearth
when all you can do
after one test match is lit

is blow it out


The Whiskey And The Snake

“I always keep some whiskey handy in case I see a snake…which I also keep handy.”
― W. C. Fields

It’s a philosophy I can get behind —
carry the danger
and the defense from danger

with you in a deep pocket or 
sling bag, easy to access,
within reach at all times —

poison and counter poison, 
which is not to say poison
and antidote as that’s not quite

how it works.
Which comes first, the venom
or the liquor? No reason

to make a hard rule of it. Thirsty?
Peek into your bag
just to see the snake. 

Take a few belts
of whiskey and soon enough
all you taste is snake.

Does your snake have
a name? Is it Daddy?
Is it Mommy? 

Does your whiskey have
a name? Is it Money?
Is it Jesus?


Bipolar II

…congratulations,
you’ve done it,
expanding, blowing out
your walls, creating space,
going higher. Cresting
above your previous
high water mark. 
A new pinnacle,
a renewed sense of
what’s possible. Listen
to what might be a fanfare
over there, a crowd
barely seeing you from
where they stand apart
on a small hill to your left,
eye level to you; the band’s
not playing for you, you ask
how that’s possible
when you’ve just risen
so far? How far down
were you that you are just now
leveling up to the yawns
and shrugs tier? Turn back
to your right and see 
that where you’ve been
looks exactly like
where you are now.
From here you see it was dark,
it’s still dark, you seem to be
on the edge of a valley
and so once again
you slip and slide 
down, down… 


Just a reminder…

I get a good part of my monthly income thru Patreon. Subscribers get access to exclusive content, special events, and rewards based on level of support.

Tomorrow night I’m running An open mic/Zoom event on the site for all patrons. The link is available to patrons only. You can become a patron for as little as $1/month.

Here is a link to the site if you are interested…

https://patreon.com/TonyBrown?utm_medium=clipboard_copy&utm_source=copyLink&utm_campaign=creatorshare_creator


the body is fighting

this body is fighting

i say die
it says no

keeps wanting

it says
no
eat instead
drink some water

it says
ask for 
kiss 
for fuck or

for the sake of argument
ask for life

for seeing it through
(aren’t you
curious?)

i say 
no

in the left side of my big dreams 
there was sunlit order.  in the right side
there was mist and if there was order
i couldn’t see it. why wait to find out 

if it in fact made sense in there? i did
well enough in the time i gave it to get
this far. i did well enough to put to rest
worry for the future: whatever is there

is beyond worry. in the left side
the steps up are straight and narrow
and i can turn around anytime i want.
in the right side i’m not sure if the previous

step remains intact. maybe i can’t go back
without falling into nothing. maybe that’s fine. 
and maybe the next step is missing. maybe
it’s all falling from here. maybe i’m falling now.

everything is a maybe 

to this body being asked
to die

except for one certainty

it keeps wanting

to spite the dreams 
it contains

my body
maintains left side order
maintains right side fog

all i do
between them

waiting 


A little something different today…

Here’s video of a performance I did back in June. Many thanks to the Garage Poets for posting it. 

Tony Brown featuring at the Walnut Street Cafe


Apologia

More than once I’ve thought about
a man in his recliner watching football, 
and told myself that it should have been me. 

I should have continued my career,
such as it was, and worked myself to rest
fully funded and mostly healthy in such a chair,

or so it would appear to others.
More than once I’ve lamented
that I took what some would say

was the lazy road and followed
words down another path. 
I could have done it part time

as I did for years and maybe
done more if I hadn’t been so bent
on chasing them where they went

instead of having them come
to where I reclined in comfort.
More than once I’ve mourned

the self I lost the day
I turned in my ID badge 
and walked to my car with a box

of stuff I did not need which felt like
gold I’d mined and wanted to keep
as proof of my having mattered

in one specific place and time. 
I was a fool, of course, then and now.
I had never mattered that much then

and I don’t matter now. If I stop now
in ten years most won’t remember
much of anything I’ve said or done.

It’s fine, really. Did I move 
the earth? No, it moved 
anyway pretty much

as it would have if I’d stayed
in that job. Did they miss me
when I was gone? No, at least

not for long.  Did they miss
the gold I’d taken with me? No.
It was not real, as it turned out. 

As for the time since: did I move the earth
with my words? No. Did they pay back
all I owed? No. Do I get to rest

now that I’ve acknowledged
how small I am? No.
Did I owe you all this work? No.

All I wanted, all I needed
was a recliner and handfuls of love
from those I loved in this life,

then silence in the next. 
I’ve been told it’s golden.
I’ve been told it feels like peace. 


Three Minutes At Twenty-Two

there were three minutes 
in my twenty-second year
when I think I had a decent ass

that might have been
second glanced by anyone
half-seeking such a thing

or such a me
if they’d taken the time
to look past it and see me as me

and not consider my ass
which I did not think much about
back then and had forgotten until today

when the entirety
of my crumbling body 
overruns my thinking

if you ask me now
what I think about 
how others view me

I will shudder
fall to my agonized knees
and as if looking down upon myself

from the heights I reached 
in my twenty-second year
I will not be able to answer 

as this 
is nothing
I ever considered 


The Worst House On The Street

There is little
to love here:

wreck of a house,
rotten driveway,
neglected garden laden
with young vegetables
that will not ripen in time
to beat this fall’s killing frost;

everyone who lives here
pushed to residency,
thread hangers holding
skin of the teeth tenancy;
the worst house on the street,
the neighbors always say —
though the kids from the first floor
seem happy enough,
greeting everyone out walking
from the driveway where they play,
bouncing a dirty ball between them
in spite of the uneven pavement

that too often sends it
off into the wilderness
by the failed tomatoes

and sends them giggling
after it. 


American Halloween

Let’s get on down to the Liquor Mart
before we start our good old
American Halloween. Paint our faces
red from inside with Fireball Whiskey. 
Prepare to dance the drunken stagger
of our barely-demon forebears
and fake evil till we make it. 
Lust for bodies naked underneath
their polyester shrouds. Taste
the solemn origins underneath
the blood on the stained receipts.
We can walk all hammered and commercial
through the rain falling thick as a screen.
It’s just the way it goes 
on American Halloween.

Then let’s head off to Walmart
to buy our way into
that good old American Halloween. Buy
matching costumes. Become
sexy pirates — no, let’s both be
Sexy Death and we can
split the workload. You take
the soft ones. I’ll take
the hard ones who don’t want to go,
the ones you have to tie up first.
We can split those who fall somewhere in between.
It’s just the kind of thing you do 
on American Halloween. 

At last let’s head off to the cemetery 
to close out this American Halloween. 
Stand among the stones
in smeared makeup giggling
at names we pretend we know. 
Recognizing some and avoiding those
because we are afraid of what they know.
Smashing our heads on the hard ground,
rousing the uncompromised ghosts 
and banshees who refuse to let us
off our blasphemous hooks. Saying not again
when the wind shakes the trees 
with a mocking rattle. We thought
we were pirates or two halves
of Sexy Death. What we are instead
are consumers in scenes tailored to
the falsehoods of American Halloween. 


Parties

Blue
or red
but both are  
white as well
as well as  
white as hell:

each built from
shaded interpretation,
then elucidation of
rationale for first mistakes
redoubled in each
subsequent mistake.  

All I want 
is to go home
to this place
of which they both speak
where no one I
have ever known
has ever lived. 

A mystery home
of joy and backslapping,
of setting shoulders in unison
to the common wheel
to pull the bounty on board
forward to
the common feast.

That someone 
has been from the start 
under the wheel
and that the bounty on board
is far from
common to all and in fact
is crushing to many?
Details. A pittance
in the bank of memory.

All I want 
is a home where I can rest
unbroken as I
have never been. Where 
the red and the blue and 
the white over our heads
is a banner, not a shroud. 


The Best Stories

First of all
in the best stories
there must be a dog,
a noble hound.

There must also be a cat —
scruffy and streetwise with
mystery surrounding it.
And in many there will be

a bird, often an owl,
that is perhaps
not as smart
as it looks.

You will
pick your familiar
from among them —
almost no one takes the owl,

more’s the pity,
unless they make an assumption 
that its apparently slow intelligence
hides something more profound; let it be

dog or cat for you if you wish.
There is not a wrong choice
if truth be told, as it always is
in the best stories.

Now that you’ve taken leave
of your prosaic self
for a while,
you can begin to quest

as a dog might quest – eager
to find the end of the trail
no matter how many distractions
tug you aside during your journey –

or as a cat might quest —
tiptoe prowler, sudden stopper,
sit down to contemplate
the whatever of the moment –

or, if by chance
you slipped into
the owl’s cloak
before the journey,

you will soar at night
above the others
and rest at dawn,
maybe calling to them

as they quest to suggest directions
or warn of hazards, using riddles
or ruses to test them, or perhaps
to clown them?

It’s in the telling
that the best stories
do their best work
but it’s hard to deny

the part each listener plays;
whatever form they choose
to take in the telling
has its own point of view

and in the best stories
the hero shifts among the listeners
until all are one or none,
until the tale is done.


Mummy

1.
The queen
dies.

The ancient white storm eclipses
colors on the horizon.

Who will come rejoicing
from behind those clouds

to see the coronation
of the new monarch, 

to come holding up the past
as proper future?

2.
Some of those who’ve been
struggling under that storm

for so long must now and then 
dream of the mummified queen 

on display in one
of their museums.

It’s not hard
to imagine the long lines 

of the curious, wringing wet
as they come in from the storm,

filing past the case
she’s in, whispering 

that they’d like to touch it
just to be certain.