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.

Somewhere Else To Be

When the heralds stood 
on the mountainside,
waved their hands
and banners over
the masses assembled below
and said:

yes, every one;

that is where they lost me.

I looked around
without malice or even much fear
and realized at that moment
how distant these people
were from each other

even as we
were herded together, touching
shoulders in the throng, breathing
the same clear mountain air, 

all of them
choosing to repeat
without concern
for truth or motive
what they were told:

that they liked
each other, even loved each other
like family; were truly united
in the valley there 
in the shadow of the high peaks,
none of them thinking
there was anything strange
about being called nation
or congregation
so forcefully,
so insistently.

Every one.
A nation, a congregation.

I turned my face away
from the mountain top people
not out of malice or even much fear;

I just had somewhere else to be. 

Not A Mistake

It’s not a mistake
to reach into
the little you know

of how
a piano

to use
a metaphor about
the music

of a felt hammer on a wire
to describe
your own work

How by itself
each sounded note
rings enough for anyone

who hears
to speak of it 
as music

but to truly
let it be all
it could be

these words should
have been sung
by someone better

Then it swats you
across the face
You are the only one 

who could be the type
of better needed 
for your work to be perfect

so sighing
you bend back to it
before sleep and death

hoping one day you sing it
as it should be sung
It’s not a mistake to reach

for perfection past the limit
of your own grasp of the song
It’s not a mistake to try


Your mother handed
her happiness at birdsong
down to you.

You kept it
hidden away but today
pulled it out from
a hidden pocket and 
put it on:

a wren locket
on a cardinal chain
and now is that sound
of you crying, or is that
a mockingbird we hear?
It had to have learned
that melody somewhere.

in memory
a young girl
dances madly
in a mirror
to the warble
of your tears.

Two new poems

And you get to see and hear me, too.

“Jimmy Loves Mary Anne”

Here’s to
the follow-up

The one-hit wonder’s
second release from
the same pocket
that held the first

The one that sounded
enough like the hit
to garner some attention

but not enough
to be called a hit

The one that years later
is recalled by a friend
at a party after the horde
of guests has gone and 
only the diehard beloved

No one
knows the title
but when
the friend starts to sing it

someone else goes
OH YEAH — whatever
happened to those guys

You look around a room
where no one knows the answer
but everyone’s grabbing
their phones and pretty soon

you all know the title
and you can move on

It reminds you
that you were seventeen 
and knew every song
on the radio from just one
note and you were
you at the utmost 
you thought you’d ever be

What happened

You know what happened

Looking around
you think it’s alright

Lessons, Pt. 63

Most loyalty will turn out
to have been misplaced.

The edge is always
closer than you thought.

The drop is usually 
not as long as you’d feared

although you’ll still
be broken at the bottom. 

Aging reveals itself
as a series of once scoffed-at

anticipations coming slowly
to fruition; eventually

you accept that all you feared
will be coming true. Hope

is more or less fleeting,
though no less satisfying

for being fulfilled
only briefly. As for

peace and love and harmony:
save them for a song. Save the song

to be played by others
at your funeral. At least

joy will rise around you
and envelope those left behind.

If you want to do something
right in this life,

don’t let on that I’ve told you
this. Keep such lessons

to yourself and instead
write songs that suggest 

I’m wrong and it’s going
to be better for everyone else.

Gearing up the Patreon site

Anyone out there interested in joining my Patreon?  I’ve got live performances and a Patron’s only workshop coming up.  

Worth your time. 

Burst, Bud, Bloom

Nearly time to make
a serious mistake. It’s
the only way to move
forward, my teacher 
used to say. See what
happens, then choose
a way to go to recover
or move on. It’s never
about success upon
success: it’s more like
how flowers burst up,
bud, bloom, and seem
to die only to come back,
and like them I could
likely come back from
the wreckage I plan 
to be buried in soon; 
death is after all
and as fruitful
as it might prove, the risk
of not coming back 
is large enough that 
every time a mistake
presents as an opportunity, 
I hesitate before
preparing to burst, bud,
and bloom. 

Regarding Delivery

What kind of bird this is
that won’t fly away when I approach?

It looks uninjured, is unafraid; in fact
I’m sure that
not long ago
I saw it land 
exactly where it sits now
on the split rock in the front yard
that protrudes from the mulch
right behind the stone wall
bordering the sidewalk.

I fill the suet cages and it watches me
the way I might watch a delivery truck
unloading bread to the grocery 
next door to work.

Maybe the wonderment here should be
about how I’m mostly a delivery truck 
lately, unloading what others need
then disappearing. I should be grateful
I am no object of fear to some being
that could, if it so desired, simply fly away.

It’s a sparrow, of course,
but there are so many
varieties of sparrow
here every day
and I still don’t know all their names
or how to speak of them upon sighting;
It seems wrong that I am still so unsure.
It seems wrong that when I turn back
to my life among people, I feel the same.

It is a shock to the spirit
that even within the comfort
of this bird’s current regard, 
I do not feel I am at home. 

Hope For Hope

Standing there in front
of a hole in a wall

No light in there
No sign to explain it

You choose to enter

You wonder if beyond
it will be
what you’ve been promised
A place where you hope
you’ll find Hope itself

As you
approach at last
a far-end light
so pinhead small
you wonder
is it visible in truth
or just in your 

you realize
you wouldn’t know

if they came up and caressed you from behind
if they came before you dressed in light
even if they then called you 
by your long-resisted true name

you couldn’t be certain

and after all
look over there

Another wall
Another hole
Another promise 
that darkness shall lead to light

Perhaps in there 
they might know you
by another
more pleasing name

Who are you
not to answer
Who are you 
to say no

Who are you not to have
hope for Hope
beyond this

while you are 
on this side
of the wall

The Tool

I get up
Write a poem
Make some coffee
Have some food
Put another round into the clip

I get up
Make some coffee
Write a poem
Make some food
Count some pills into a plastic cup

I get up
Have some water
Make some coffee
Fix a poem
Sharpen the edge of the big knife

I dream a poem
Get up and write it down
Delete it when I read it back
Make some coffee
Eat a food that one day will do me in

One day I’ll change it up
One day I won’t think about poems
One day the coffee will be left unmade
One day I’ll won’t get up
One day the Tool will be set aside

The Color Of Snow

Isn’t snow always
remarkable? Although
it’s not snow
charming us, maybe,
as much as its 
volume, how
it falls so silently 
when there’s no
wind to push it. 
Then again it’s 
so difficult to manage
at times, sticking around,
adhering to ground and 
pavement, to our vision
and never mind our freedom
to move; how about
the child from my hometown
who fell into a drift
outside his front door and
wasn’t found until spring?
Snow did that, drew him
into its maw and 
killed him. How missed
he was, right there on his own
land, his parents’ death-ache
palpable all over town
that winter when all you could see
everywhere was —
ah, clarity — White.
It’s silly to fear the snow
just for its color,
they tell me, but when considering
my own history, I have to speak up:
try to understand, I don’t fear the snow
for its color as much as I’ve learned
to fear the color itself and how it 
warps the picture outside my front door
without a word — so silent,
so heavily insistent, so 

Learning How To Listen

Listen: somewhere inside me
it’s already happened
that the first seed of my death
is sprouting. Somewhere 
inside a cell has hardened into
a dagger and I can hear
the sharpening.
Or perhaps the cracking I hear
is a dam inside me is ready to burst,
and a cluster of once-quiet cells
is turning into a shouting mob.

Listen: I can already hear
the ruckus of war being waged within
from the isles of Langerhans,
which will likely be enough
to overwhelm the rest. Listen:
there’s the metronomic tap, tap
of the brain as it chips away at memory.
Listen: the heart is pushing blood
at a rising volume. Listen:
neurotransmitters are hollering
in penultimate chorus, there’s little
serotonin in the mix, and I know too well
what their song is urging me to do.

I’m listening, asking how long,
how long is this going to take? I’m asking
not for me but for a friend. For
a lover, for a family. For what 
I’ve got left to do before I can’t. 

Listen. You would think 
I would stop but
the least I can do
is to listen to these bitter songs.

That’s why any song spring shall bring
is more welcome now,
and summer’s song after that,
and then perhaps autumn and winter
will sing as well, and after that I shall see
what song is loudest,
and then I shall hope
to listen to more.

In Media Res

soon enough
a pair of Malinois
will come into view

holding a banner between them
that will bear
an illegible word

you will squat before them
and from that vulnerable position
attempt to decipher it

as the dogs approach they shall veer
slightly to the left of where you are
and the banner will become 

impossible to read
so whatever the message the dogs have
is either not meant for you or 

you will miss it
and you shall rise
from the squatting position

look back at the place
from which the dogs came
and see only a sunset

you will tell yourself
as you veer away from the view
turning slightly to the right

this how it has been
for all your time 
messages seemingly meant for you

narrowly undelivered
from ferocious mouths
leaving you in their wake

to marvel and wonder
where to look
for an explanation



The word of the day:
“froideur.” On loan
from French, it describes

“a coolness or distance
between people.” As in
how we develop rote answers to

“how’s the family, friend?”
No one actually cares,
do they?

As in, “what’s up
for the weekend?
Got any plans?” comes to sound

like reconnaissance for assault.
You don’t respond with the truth,
which is, “I’m going to spend it either

coiled and nasty, or curled and
weepy, either way don’t come by
if you don’t want a share of the pain.”

You think I’m sick for saying this.
I think you are right.
I don’t care what you think.

I think I’m not alone.
Others don’t care what I think,
or that I’m even here.

Calling it froideur
offers hope that it is not
who we truly are.

We don’t have a word for it. 
We had to go take one
from elsewhere to speak of it.

Using one word to explain it
leaves so much more time
for silence.