I like to think
I could walk out to the middle
of any mall or office parking lot,
lie down on my
belly, start to gnaw through
I hit dirt
and then start to burrow
I find bones
and then breathe on the bones
until they can speak again
and thank me and clasp me
to their open chests as
one of their own. Yes,
I like to think
the past already
knows of me
and cares for me as
legacy. I like to think
there is something underfoot
that likes me
and nourishes me. Yes,
I am extremely fond
of my thinking.
Author Archives: Tony Brown
I like to think
A wheel, or a tide. A turning.
First daffodils alongside
a cracked walkway, soon to be gone;
the hostas breaking through, ready
for the start of their duration.
New blisters on a tender winter hand.
Raising and stowing the tarp
that laid over the containers
soon to be full of this year’s
hope. The first slow wasp.
Who in my life full of old people
will make it to summer? Nothing
emerging from the soil today
can offer that answer. A wheel, a tide;
a turning. All I can do now
is turn with it
to whatever comes.
Stop. Stop this.
You sang the corners and more.
I heard you. Everyone did.
We know who you are.
Stop. Stop this.
We saw you watching, listening,
writing. The backs of keno tickets
know who you are.
Stop. Stop this.
That you say you never this
is proof. We all say this. The “why you start”
stops mattering once it’s who you are.
Stop this, start that,
continue or not. Being is being.
A fist, a pen, a handful of snakes and roses.
You see them the same. It’s who you are.
Plastic, spiderform, childhood prize
from a vending machine. Tossed aside, vanished.
Mood indicator in white metal
recalled from adolescence.
So many in silver, incised, cast,
bought at powwows: where are they?
Two in torn soft gold,
each bearing a different grandfather’s initial,
stolen along with antique Dine’,
turquoise gone green with age; heirloom heartbreaks.
Moebius strip in hardened 14 karat rose
rendered venomous by living,
sold for weight upon release into non-desperation:
what my fingers would be now, what I would be now
without these ghost adornments, I cannot imagine.
“I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.” — David Ignatow
In some parallel existence
perhaps you were a wolf
but not a wolf
made by humans.
there was just one wolf, and
it was always edging toward hunger.
It was the one you fed. It
was you. Inside that one? Not ours
That wolf was you
but you were not, you were full
wolf and sufficient without
you were a hawk in another existence,
or a mountain; not human, you dealt
with life on the terms of hawk or
mountain, conscious in ways
not-human, stubbornly unaware of
The curse of being human
is that we claim we are filled
with starving wolves and aspirational
mountains pushing ever upward,
hawks with keen vision seeking
We make everything fit into us,
insist everything else is
one of us and now, now?
See where we are —
knowing nothing of the world, staring at
posters hanging outside the cubicle,
working so hard, wishing we were
those fake wolves,
trying not to scream.
Awakened at four twelve AM it’s all you’ve got
in the silent New England house:
the memory of being the driver
of the sole car
speeding west on a night highway,
speeding west from Albuquerque.
Tonight this memory
of the drive toward Acoma
is giving back a soul
you’d thought you’d lost years ago
to your boss insisting
that she knew better than you
how to pronounce the name of a place
she’d been to exactly
once on vacation. “Are you sure
it’s not a long O? It’s
Ah-CO-mah, I’m certain. Are you sure?”
“Maybe I’m wrong,” you said then.
But you weren’t.
Pronounce it in your head:
“AH-cuh-muh. AH-cuh-muh.” Acoma.
You were sure. Sure then, sure now.
Certain of the Sky City
still being there, ahead,
out there west of you off this shining road,
under this saving path
of stars, you say its name to yourself.
It wasn’t her speaking that took your soul.
It was your silence. “Acoma, I’m sorry,”
you say out loud
in the New England house.
Nothing feels like home tonight
except that name.
I am swarmed with the absolutes
whenever I sit with this world — nothing,
nowhere, everything, everyone.
Sit, trying to see details,
trying to examine the particulars
that vanish in the wash of
outraged experience. The older I get,
the more I am drowned in absolutes,
the more I extrapolate from
that brick on the sidewalk, most likely
left over from some long-abandoned
project, kicking around here
for so long I can’t recall
its first appearance. I fantasize
it’s a leftover not of building
but of destruction, a leftover
of streetfight, revolt, of windows smashing
in defiance of landlord and overlord —
fall headlong into
everything, everyone —
and there I am again, out in the world.
Far away from the brick on the sidewalk
in front of my house. The one
I have kicked aside for years
and never picked up. Never looked at,
not much anyway.
Never tried to build
or break a thing with it.
It’s just a prop for my immersion
in the absolutes of theory
and what I ought to be doing
with this art, this life.
I should be ashamed
that I have never
lifted that brick myself, stopping
to notice the specifics of any concrete
adhering to the sides. The discoloration,
the pitting. The weight.
I ought to have known its particulars
before deciding if it was to become
weapon or poem.
I am direct when, as I rise to the daylight’s challenge,
I say: appreciate the oyster for its difficult shell.
I am wearing no such metaphor on my own armor.
It is hard for me not to love the oyster
for such impenetrability. I burst into fragments inside
from quick, combustible self-disgust whenever
I use the word “I.” Who is here? Get out, musher, mingler.
Don’t remember letting this one have the reins.
Do not like to speak of this, so don’t push.
No oyster here, full of salt and sloppy gut.
Don’t care that you think this could be easily consumed,
a luxury for the luxurious. The rings of this shell,
ragged, a terrace whose contours could be read
well enough from outside, ought to tell you: get back.
Get out of my head, you miserable self. Get back from
the perimeter, readers, interpreters. Not here for it,
not your delicacy. You get what you are shown
and are entitled to little more than, perhaps,
a vain attempt to handle what looks like little more
than a rock. Put it down. Back away. Don’t assume
it will open in due time, in your time. Long time
you will wait for that, driver, handler. What is offered
is all. What is held back? Guess again and again.
No oyster here. It could be empty. It could.
I’ve been told my whole life
I was born to the throne.
Instructed toward ownership.
Forced to trust in my own authority,
however lightly I carried it,
however little I wanted it.
Grew to reject it,
to surrender my place,
or so I thought. Sondra,
though — Sondra tore
the veil when she said,
“I am a woman, born
and built for sedition,”
and instead of agreeing,
something moved in me
and behind it, I glimpsed fear
and only behind that was the face
I knew was my own true face,
and it looked free,
and not at all like the one
I call my own.
Every day there’s a morning
I wonder how long it will be
before we damage the sun so much
it will refuse to show up, but it seems
we aren’t venomous enough
for that just yet.
Did the earth pretty well in,
tossed some junk on moon and Mars,
left a few things adrift to crash
where they may, if ever. Maybe the sun
takes no position on all that; maybe it’s
too big to be bullied, but somehow
I suspect we’ll try. It’s in our nature.
Someone’s going to try it. They
will wake up one day, point at the sky,
say, “Next. I got next,” and ball up
their fists and go to war against the sun.
The sun will flick us off like lint.
We won’t know when to wake up
on those first days. We’ll sleep through it
until it gets cold and we starve. The sun
won’t show up again till then and it will say,
“Apollo, remember? Huitzilopochtli, Ra,
Mithras, Inti — you forgot, and you found out.”
Two of my poems have recently been published here:
Good online journal, and overall worth your time and consideration.
An old show about an old story.
You know who wrote it.
You say you’ve never seen it?
That’s because you’re in it.
It’s been the same basic plot
from the start: eventually everyone
becomes either silent, dead,
or Ward and June.
Beaver and Wally? As long as they sell,
sell, sell and buy, buy, buy, it’s all good.
A hard hat for Lumpy. For Eddie Haskell?
A badge and a gun.
Except for June, they don’t need
named or memorable women, and as for
everyone else unseen it’s already
been discussed –silent, or dead.
You say you want to change the channel?
June looks worried. Ward puts down his pipe
and takes off his belt. Wally makes himself
scarce, Beaver waits in his room. Eddie grins,
and nobody gives a fuck about Lumpy.
Remember how sick that session was?
We all walked out the door saying that was one sick session.
No idea now who played. No idea now what we started with.
I must have had a red guitar but which one?
I must have played my heart out but I don’t remember.
You were there. You’re shaking your head but you must have been.
If you don’t remember it I’ll try to remind you. Remember?
You offered me a smoke and I turned it down because no filter.
I smoked Winstons back then. Haven’t smoked in what now, a decade?
You say you never smoked? I could have sworn you offered me a Camel.
I know we started with a standard — maybe “Stella By Starlight?”
I don’t even recall how that goes now. You swear you never smoked?
I don’t touch my guitar anymore either. Maybe I never did?
The room I recall was full of smoke. Maybe it’s all in my head?
That sick session I rely on to remind me of who I was — did it happen?
Did I ever play at all? The room had gray walls and a ceiling fan.
Did it happen to me? I can just see five or six shadows intent on music.
Was it on TV? Everything is, you know. We were wailing, I promise.
No cutting, not us. We wove and bobbed and it worked, it just worked.
Did it happen? Did we play together? Everything used to just work back then.
Imagine them told not to play
the only roles they understand.
Imagine them not having a script.
Nakedly standing there
without uniform or costume; understand
that they’ve been told to improvise,
that the play they’ve always played
is being shuttered.
They are just going to stand there
or grab a chair and sit down,
bury their heads in their hands or
pretend there is sand
and put their heads there.
More than a few
will grab props and lash out
with knives, guns, clubs: whatever
they can remember has worked
in the past to advance the action.
Poor things. Can’t say
that I blame them entirely,
or do not understand. Not every actor
develops a pure agency after having lived
as another’s dirty agent for a lifetime.
It doesn’t mean
we don’t still need them
to be swept from the stage
as soon as possible so we can
bring that curtain down
now. Not in due time,
not in a generation.
Now. Not eventually. Now.
I tell you I long
to vanish into a year
where I am not myself —
1842, 2148, I do not care —
any year at all that holds out
a certainty of erasure, one in which
the person I am now
couldn’t possibly exist.
You ask how I cannot believe
in myself, in how I could be
a reincarnation of a past being
right now, and that if so
I was likely myself as I am now
back then; you don’t understand
how I cannot hope
that next week someone
will make a breakthrough
on immortality and I will indeed
remain myself far into the future.
You ask how I could deny myself
such possibilities. I lower my eyes.
I cannot look directly
into the face of someone
who dares to see me
as worthy of either.