Author Archives: Tony Brown

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details.

Legacy

If there was ever tenderness
I have forgotten it.

I do recall
how honest you were,

telling me not to go
the route you went,

and here I am now,
somewhere else entirely.

If there is a rationale
for your advice,

I have become its
embodiment. I indeed

ruined everything. Indeed
I am myself a ruin:

a mystery, an unexcavated
burial chamber waiting

to be bulldozed and regretted.
Hear them revving their engines

now. You are still here and will
be here after they pass — no one

guessed that would happen.
When they finish the road

over where I was, you will
take it to wherever it goes.

I’ll be in the blacktopped
earth, still underfoot.

I did not go the route you took.
I instead became that route

and look where it got me: if ever I had
tenderness to offer,

it remained unoffered. It remains so
today. Here in the sealed earth it all ends —

for the best perhaps, considering
what I was, what I might have been.


Never Have I Ever

I tell myself: to be read
and heard
by enough is enough.

To be read and heard
by those who wanted it
or did not know they wanted it,
those for whom it filled a need
or want,
those who then were moved
to tango their own darkness
out to sunny plazas and dance on
before all,
as well as those who instead
would then take heart at what they’d read
and at last be ready to flee
the false light they were raised in
into more comfortable shadow,
that is enough and will be enough.

Enough. Enough.
The word I keep staring into —
when will this be enough?
Will I ever be able to look back and say
that’s enough, let me stop right here
and rest and offer not another word?

Enough. Enough.
The word I keep staring into —
will this be enough
or have I already passed into bloat,
glutton with this work, so far beyond
what was needed or asked of me?

And when does the whispering stop
that it was never about them
and always about trying to convince myself
that all the things I claimed
for why and how I did this
were true and enough?

To be read and seen and heard.
To look anyone in the eye at the end.
To not need a mirror to look at myself.
To not know anymore who is looking back.
To only see the Work anytime my eyes are open
.

Enough.



I Cannot Write Those Poems

I cannot write those beloved poems,
poems of nature and love, poems on how light
takes its time on surfaces

like a beloved’s hand in leisure
stroking with pleasure over a perfect
arm or shoulder,

although I have nothing
against such poems and read them
like food, nourishment for

long days and nights without that beauty,
without what some consider
the enduring truth of the world

that exists beyond us, beyond the works
of humans, as if we are not a part of that world
when we war and kill and mourn,

as if to visit beauty is to release oneself
from seeing oneself in the pain of human life,
to absolve oneself from facing it all —

I cannot write those poems as my hand
is tethered to something else — not better
but not that, a coin-side away from that,

poems people would rather set aside
than read, poems some consider too immediate
or too enraging or worst of all too ugly

to be thought of as poems — and yet
for someone they are as good as hard bread
that can be broken open to reveal

delight within and then after being consumed
will offer strength to get to the next sunset,
the next perfect sunset, the cocked angle

of song bird on branch preparing to sing
as if the world could be created just by that although
someone had to dig the dirt to plant that tree.


“To Speak” In French

Isn’t it nice to end up in a place
where the scent of your own disaster
is hidden by the local atmosphere?
Isn’t it justified and good to be breathing in
the same staleness for which you’ve always lived?
All you past loves hate you, all your past wars
were lost causes, all your big mistakes were
ongoing, and yet here you can be free to call them
romances, victories, and corrected. Perpetually now
you can be a boy with a gun and clear enemies;
perpetually you can now be wronged and small;
you are perpetually heroic now, in that dinged up
tinfoil armor. Breathe it in, suck it up.
If you start to choke it’s got to be the fault
of the world outside where shifting and changing
are sins of the weak.
Isn’t it nice to be able to call that out then breathe deep
and call this stench perfume?


How To Speak Of Death To Your Fellow Americans

To begin with, take off your funeral suit
but do not put it completely away
in the back of the spare room closet.
Do not forget how it looks on you
and how often you’ve had to wear it.

When you begin to speak, remember
that some folks have never been to
the number of funerals you’ve attended.
Some have never been to any
and will not understand a word you say
but talk anyway. Some don’t believe
people die as often or as unfairly
as you know they do

and you will not make them feel grief
easily or quickly. Talk anyway; you might need
visual aids. Some only see death
when it’s as close as the next room
so when you speak of death to them,
you will have to simulate the sound
of death knocking on the adjoining wall
to make them understand.

Some of them will smirk and speak
of Darwin and some will speak of Jesus.
All of these people will speak of what is right
and what is deserved; most will stare you down
and shout the word “justice.” Talk anyway, seeking
those among them who, even as they sneer,
will avert their eyes. Talk to them; ignore the rest.

Many of them will be the kind of people who say,
“If I die…” Show them your funeral suit; tell them
how often you’ve worn it; show them the shiny cuffs,
the worn tie tucked in the pocket after the church hall
reception; say the names of the dead and how often
they died saying, “if I die…tell them how
I was killed. If I die, make it mean something. If I die,
remember my name.”

Maybe you will say something to someone that will work
but don’t put away your funeral suit after that.
Don’t bury it deep. Don’t assume you’ll get to wear it again
only when they put you at last into the ground.






Looking For Hope

We always bet
the world on Hope
although it has always been
a sort of Icarus
with its reclaimed wings
and hot-glue foundation.

We lay ourselves at its feet
and stare up into its eyes with love
although we know from its past
that it is likely to leave us
and soar until it crashes.

We spend too many days after that
staring at the ocean imagining we see it
struggling still and calling to us for rescue
even though each of us points
at a different spot and say we were certain,
this time, that we have it right.

Somehow in spite of all the times
we have found Hope’s soggy feathers on the shore,
all the time we have gone out in boats
to where we sure Hope was still afloat
and found nothing, we go back to the sea
and stare at the horizon, pointing first here,
then there, then everywhere.

Now and then we get it right.


Balloons

I call myself “old” because I am past middle age
and feel every breath of it inflating me to breaking.
You say, “no, you’re not,” as if those facts were false.
I call myself “failure” because what I have broken,
let lapse, and left undone are ballooning so greatly
in all the rooms where I find myself
that there’s no room there for anything else. You say, “no,
you are no failure,” as if you cannot feel the balloon
continuing to inflate and crush everything. I call myself
“useless” because of all the utility I’ve lost recently
and all the half-started goals that will as a result
never even get to half-finished. You say, ” you are NOT
useless,” but what I have done lately looks like a scant pile
in a dirty corner you can’t even seen for the growing balloon
of everything else that I am and loathe myself for being.

I look at these words and see a decent explanation.
That, I suppose, is something. I look at you
and you look right back as if there is nothing between us
that’s ready to burst. That is something.
I look out the window and the walk is swept clear.
I did that, I remember. That is something.
It is something, I guess, that I can get past the fear
of a looming explosion and still look out the window.


Today, Tomorrow

Now that the mail’s come and gone
— left me penniless, raised my debt —

I’m going to put tomorrow aside
and wait till tomorrow to dread it.

Do not mistake this for happiness
or even contentment —

there’s plenty to dread today,
and I shall do so. But tomorrow

promises it will wait
to see if I meet it after today,

and as I am yet unsure of that,
I can wait as well.


Live Here

Last night you were kept awake by the sound
of whatever you thought this country was
fleeing like geese from winter.

All that harsh honking: the sound of illusions
soaring, diminishing, flying away.
It kept you up fretting and polishing your weapons.

When you raised the living room blinds,
on the ground below the window one cardinal,
one squirrel, three chickadees,

two mourning doves. Less sound than before
but this is your country in daylight. This is where
you are. Feed the birds that have stayed.


Reptile

Under the skull’s top and
buried in the wet jelly
is where I live in the reptile neighborhood.

I lie on a flat rock
and imagine the sun is piercing
all the way through to warm me enough

to strike back
at the pain and danger
all around me.

Then you say it’s the jelly
that’s making all the horror
real, and that I’m as much

the jelly as the reptile raging
within it. I am unsure — it feels
more and more that I am living

somewhere else, not in the body
or the brain. That I only inhabit them
as needed and my true home is elsewhere.

I am unsure if I have ever been the reptile
now that I consider it — it is possible
all I know about myself

is an overlay of myths upon mystery.
I only know I am scared tonight, my teeth
on edge, slightly bared, waiting to tear free.



Fonts

some days I mourn and loathe
existence more than others

but never more so than when
people argue over fonts

in this world any argument
for meaning over appearance is a loser

I do understand how one
may amplify the other of course

I am not a total fool
for dismissal but

hold the opinion
that there’s something wrong here

that sings
like Nero’s fiddle

but I apparently can’t put my finger on it
in this font


Hindsight

When after the fact
you say out loud, “I should
have known” or “Why didn’t they
say anything, why didn’t they
reach out,”

you must consider
the possibilities:

that they did not want
anyone to know,

that they did not want
you to know,

or that they did let you know
and someday you will look back
and see the moment you were told
staring back at you in the mirror,
looking as you should have
when it first happened.

How long do you think
you will be able
to hold your own gaze?


Inertia

These junky feet
suck. Neither big nor small,
invisibly broken since I was young
and now the damage is catching up —

I’ve been places with them, I admit,
some places I do not regret,
but now I can’t stay upright on them for long.
The long stumble of the past few years

led me here to a seat on a broken couch
and here my ass is going to stay.
I’m looking at my feet, good only now
for kicking — buckets, rocks, myself.

I’d cut them off — but then, why stop there,
and if I dulled the blade while cutting them off
I might be unable to get to the sharpener
and continue up the body. I suppose I could

bring all my knives out
and have them close so I didn’t have to waste
time sharpening this one? I’m glad I thought of it
before I started sawing away, before drowning

the carpet with blood and the air with screams.
Glad I can put these feet to a productive use
one last time. One last journey ahead of me:
a short one but one I should have taken sooner.

But it’s so nice here on the couch
that I might wait a bit longer. See if things
change. See if I change. See if the pain fades.
See if anything at all presents itself anytime soon.



The Black Cat

The black cat lies on my chest
and demands attention. She doesn’t care
about civil war or climate change —

just wants what she wants,
what she always wants. I’m not certain
love is the right word for her part in this.

I’ll call it that for the moment.
For the moment it feels like the right word.
Love holds her to the simple path

of touch and feed and sleep
and while it won’t stop my world
from dissolving around us both,

it will do for the moment to keep me
from despair for the future
that I know is short (for me at least);

I have no illusions tonight —
just the cat, the comic films,
love’s promise of a full night’s sleep

erasing the day, the week,
the year, the era, and all the sick air
I’m so tired of breathing.




Banality

Admit to yourself
that at least some part of you
has at least now and then wanted to be
full-on mediocre —

that you longed for a living room
with matching recliners
and cheap Van Gogh prints
on beige walls,
an endless string of Sundays
of mild chicken dinners
and football, always football afterward.

If you can acknowledge this
you can then go on
to admit your utter fear
of the thrilling days
where you find yourself now,
this moment in history
that pushes you outward,
finds you attempting to burst
from your public skin into
some new and unfamiliar form —

it would have been so wonderful
to have been unremarkable,
to have been comfortable,
to have had the luxury of banality,
to have been able
to be part of the weak scenery,

but here you are.