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QUIET LIGHTNING IS

:
a monthly submission-based reading series with 2 stipulations:
1. you have to commit to the date to submit 2. you only get up to 8 minutes

submit@quietlightning.org

sub scr i b e
1 year + 12 issues + 12 shows for $100

sparkle + blink 41
© 2013 Quiet Lightning ISBN 978-1-304-16668-5 artwork © Michelle Guintu michelleguintu.tumblr.com Playing Dead Man by Sarah Kobrinsky previously published in Volume 3, Issue 15, of The Molotov Cocktail “Ephemera” by Rick D'Elia (previously published in Switchback) “Reflection” and “Gamble” by Anhvu Buchanan both appear in The Disordered (Sunnyoutside Press) Coming of Age by Alice LaPlante appears courtesy of Grove Atlantic, 2013 book design by j. brandon loberg set in Absara Promotional rights only. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the author(s) is illegal. Your support is crucial and appreciated.

quietlightning.org
su bmit @ qui e tl i g h tn i n g . o r g

CONTENTS
curated by

Kristen Kramer & D.W. Lichtenberg
featured artist Michelle

Guintu

Set 1
INGRID KEIR

SARAH KOBRINSKY

Peach Street Journal From Here to There Reading Material Public Transport Playing Dead Man

1 4 6 8 11 13

JANEY SMITH Peach

RICK D’ELIA Ephemera 17

19 Friend Zone 20 Gamble 21
ANHVU BUCHANAN Reflection

The New Tattoo 23 Summer With Cows 24 Olivia 25
HUGH BEHM-STEINBERG

set 2
ALICE LaPLANTE

BRANDON BROWN

from Coming of Age at the End of Days

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My Favorite Things 37 Dread Flower Poem 40 California 44 Wind 45

E T L IG I U Q

HTNING IS SPONSORED

BY

lagunitas.com

QUIET LIGHTNING
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Evan Karp founder + president Chris Cole managing director Josey Lee public relations S.B. Stokes secretary Meghan Thornton treasurer Kristen Kramer chair Jacqueline Norheim art director Nicole McFeely outreach Brandon Loberg design Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan directors of special operations If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helping—on any level—please send us a line: evan@quietlightning.org

QUIET LIGHTNING

TOUR THROUGH TOWN
In 2013, Quiet Lightning is teaming up with a different literary organization each month in order to bring together the many outstanding series and organizations of the Bay Area literary world, and to introduce its various audience members to programming they might like but not yet know about. For these reasons, we will create custom-designed shows that combine the defining features of Quiet Lightning with those of each month’s partner organization. This month’s collaboration with The Rumpus is the seventh show of our Tour and features a variety show that includes readings by Alice LaPlante and Brandon Brown, as well as comedy by Janine Brito and a musical set by Le fomo.
For details on the TOUR T H R OU GH T OWN visit our website:

QUIETLIGHTNING.ORG

- SET 1 -

IIIII

IIIIII

P E A C H ST

R E ET J O U R N A L

Faded postcard slips to the floor, a reminder of a nola vacation. In the morning, always the same scamper “where are my keys?!” Oh, to be in the bathtub in the company of lavender. I dream of red wine and dark chocolate; I speak for the masses. Harley Davidsons roaring down my street belong in the fourth circle of Dante’s Inferno (greed). A minute to breathe a minute to write. What’s beneath? Keep the pen moving.
1

I wish to become a public pajama wearer, but this will never happen. Public nail clippers should be sent to the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno (violence). Note: get more sleep, drink more water. A stomach dreams of banh mi! I wonder about the Women’s bathroom, overtaken by a tornado of unclean fools. Why are Santa Clauses so scary and titillating? My favorite vegetables not in season. I buy them anyway, don’t tell. The history of rap performed by the Roots, Jimmy and Justin, highlight of my day.

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I hear Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady sometimes in my sleep, as well as my kid’s favorite, twinkle twinkle little star. The neighbor trims his lawn with scissors. Hop on Pop Go Dog Go Busy Busy City Street read every night for three months. The egrets walk like giraffes while I walk like a hurried mother.

I ngrid Ke ir

3

FROM HERE TO THERE
I rush to the elevated platform the buzz of the loudspeaker confirms I’m always late, press myself into a train choked wall to wall with commuters. I wish away my keen sense of smell: body odor, last night’s garlic prawns, the stench of gas, foul and toxic. Transfixed by the special face people wear on public transit: a hardened brow, a hollow stare. The shiny-lipped twenty-something serenades us with her favorite Beyoncé song headphones pulsate at a deafening decibel. A bald man balances his weight wide-legged, sideways, oddly proud to have hands in pockets, no need to hold the rail. The mumbly guy a few feet over beanie pulled low over his eyebrows reads The Chronicle to his neighbor though she ignores his continuous drone. The suit—the suit is a mouth breather. Sitting with his head reclined like a baby bird waiting for Momma to arrive with food comical, rhythmic snores, amid the swarm of the morning.
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The fluorescent chariot speeds through the dark tunnel to a stop; we are funneled through a narrow passage to Montgomery Street the hexagonal walls modeled after honeycomb worker bees hurry to the morning.

I ngrid Ke ir

5

READING MATERIAL
Signs under test Evergreen Ming Ying No food or drink Violators subject to fine Stop West Oakland Stash your trash California soda Available snow 1.0 move in special Mr. Espresso Coffee & Machines Federal law requires these Danger Do Not Lean Available to seniors Sofas and love $499 Childhood obesity Jesus saves from hell The Dark Knight Jumbo size ‘em My house my rules Take the road less traveled Just listen baby We buy transmissions Rideout Roofing
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The end is near Open Hummer Exit

I ngrid Ke ir

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PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Loud Phone Talkers Open Mouth Yawners Shaky Sweaty Dopers Stank Food Eaters Hysterical Ex-lovers Feet-on-Seat Sitters Shrill Voice Users Phone Music Players Cuckoo Shit Talkers Uncovered Sneezers Covert Masturbators Litter Droppers Gaping Mouth Breathers Children Yeller At-ers Beeping Video Game Players Pajama Wearers Skunky Drug Runners Excessive Throat Clearers Pungent Cologne Wearers Awkward Co-workers Deadly Farters Just Off Work Fish Fryers Phone Ringer Browsers Transportation Spare Changers Grumpy Graveyarders
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Massive Suitcase Travelers Sunflower Seed Husk Spitter-Outers Five Day Underwearers Fingernail Clippers Loud Headphone Wearers Sing Songers Toe Jam Stinkers Whistlers Up the Skirt Phone Photographers Drunk Bridge-n-Tunnel Baseball Gamers Pissed Off Motherfuckers Board the Train Before People Have Exited-ers Don’t Move Into the Train Standers Left Side Escalator Blockers

Watch Ingrid Keir read "Peach Street Journal, "From Here to Thee", "Reading Material" and "Public Transport"

I ngrid Ke ir

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PLAYING DEAD MAN
Dead Man slows his heart to a trace of a hint of a beat. Dead Man loves to laugh and look at himself above his almost dead body. He loves to fool the nurses and grab their full-blown asses after faking, yet another, flatline. It scares the shit out of ‘em every time, then he smiles his cheeky smile while his family, shuffling awkwardly in the corner, apologizes once more to all the doctors, the porters, the care workers, and the nurses. Give an old guy a break, Dead Man thinks as he examines his carefully portioned foodstuffs. I am dead, he grins and digs into the Jell-O that will only keep him alive a few more days, maybe hours, but Dead Man eagerly eats in hope of playing his game one more time. He watches the clock tick over slowly. Dead Man wonders what will come first: another minute or his last, most victorious heartbeat? Dead Man waits for the next shift to begin, waits patiently as patients do, for another team of girls to tease, for another chance to expose himself. Dead Man imagines leaving his body for the final time while that sweet nurse over there rides him like he’s never been ridden before. Who knew kicking the bucket could be such fun? He slows his heart down to a trace of a hint of a beat.
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SS SS

SSSSSSSSSS

S

Watch Sarah Kobrinsky read "Playing Dead Man"

JJJJ

JJJJJJJ

PEAC H
The entry hall was small and connected all the rooms in the apartment. Mary came in. I looked at her and liked that she was barefoot and that her toenails were uncut. “Well.” I didn’t know what to do so I was like, “What.” And Mary said, “Aren’t you going to close the door?” And I was like, “No.” And Mary went behind me and closed it. I wanted to leave and Mary could tell and she said, “Do you want some yogurt?” I felt that sounded pretty good so I said, “Okay.” We sat in the kitchen and Mary dropped her spoon and we both just looked at it. The floor was made of dirty wood and Mary went and got another one. Then I dropped mine. Mary ate her yogurt and looked out the window. I picked up the spoon and she looked at me, “You’re not going to eat that, are you?” I put the spoon in my yogurt and swirled it around and all this fruit came up, “Yeah.” And I ate some and looked right at her like right in her eyes and Mary’s eyes met mine and Mary ate yogurt too. Mary got down to get some bags and the bottoms of her feet were black with dirt. “Do you want some bags?” I was like, “Alright.” And Mary gave
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me some bags. Mary put a bag over her head and said, “What am I?” And I didn’t know, she just looked like a lady with bag over her head. “I don’t know.” Mary was like, “You’re no fun.” And I was like, “I thought you were sick?” Then Mary got quiet and her face changed, “Yeah.” And she went into the other room. In the room there was a couch that Mary was trying to get rid of. I didn’t know my way around even though it was just a room. Mary didn’t care where I sat. I sat on the floor near a stack of magazines. I took one, I took another. I kept taking the magazines and putting them in another stack. I forgot about Mary for a second, then I remembered. Mary was looking out the window.    She let me see her dirty feet. She spread her toes and showed me her cut. I forgot about the magazines but the room smelled like perfume and Mary opened a window. She hated smells. Outside a truck went by. Then these men started cutting the trees and it got loud. Mary closed the window. “Do you want some food?” “No.” Mary picked up a remote and pushed it towards the TV. A picture of a guy arguing with a girl was on. There was no sound and Mary watched the TV. Then I watched the TV. We watched the TV for a while. There were other guys and other girls arguing and lots of commercials and when another show started I looked over at Mary all slow so that maybe she wouldn’t notice me
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looking. But Mary watched the TV. She didn’t notice me. That’s when I knew I got the job. Mary pulled her knees up and cracked her toes and kept watching TV, “Can you come over Monday?” “I don’t know.” We watched TV and we watched TV some more and then we watched TV until I realized it was all these commercials. I asked where the bathroom was and got up and left after confusing the closet door for the front one.  

Watch Janey Smith read "Peach"

Jane y Smit h

15

16

RRRRRRRRRRR

EPHEMERA
The days when the boys, with wine soaked teeth watching porchlamps quit, keeping their lapels pressed tight, trying their best not to shudder down tenement stairs may come again. The clutch sticks and struggles while the transmission rattles down Fellsway West crossing the bridge creaking with sunset. Maybe this time lust will buckle. 

Watch Rick D'Elia recite "Ephemera"

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18

A AA

AAAAAAAAAA

A

R E F L E C TI O N
Reset. All you know then is that somehow land dismantles water. And there are creatures that climb the night to make compassion. Or stars. Or lullabies. The ocean is a silencer held to your temple. No trigger. No sand. Pull. Sing hymns until your ears can’t sponge anymore. Talk the days into staying over. Hold your prayers until all the skeletons are warm again. Your eyes are dirty-talking the paintings in the museum. Follow. Your jaw or another stained glassed window? Don’t swallow the crayons to remember. An arrow a day will keep everyone away. Shoot. Attention time zones, you’ve arrived. You’re stuck in the drain they call your head. Forgive and forgive until it becomes a song. To learn a lesson, look in the mirror.

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FRIEND ZONE
If by chance I find your dress asleep by the riverbank, I’ll let it be. Let it rest like the loaves of bread on the kitchen counter we could never swallow. The bread was never our home the mason jars never our church. Again, another fireplace we put out of business. Because we both knew from the beginning how the path looked. When I dusted the trail with paper cranes and only got guilt only got more rainwater I didn’t know where to place. I staked a claim to your wings hoping you would sit beside me and give me faith again. Faith in each bite of broken teeth you fed me. Faith in the way we could stare at the ceiling quietly and turn the chandeliers into art. You asked me to give you this but instead I gave you that. I gave you a city darker than your prayers and splinters on your heels and excuses and a fleet of hot air balloons with no heat and no directions and enough trinkets to fill up a whale and not enough ways to tell you your body was more than just a mountain I couldn’t stop writing about. Your eyes jog away and I hear it in your hair. That there is nothing left to harvest. And you know what owns me tonight and tomorrow. So you don’t come home and you never will.

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GAMBLE
this is where you mistake your nosebleed for a Ferris wheel this is where the ball keeps spinning and your father never comes home this is where yes meant yes and water was water again this is where you bend over and the memories rattle out of your body this is where your mother gave birth this is where you fall on the pavement teeth first this is where you swallow your feet whole this is where you ignore the blood this is where the numbers never come this is where towels become animals this is where you drag around the dustpan this is where the television tucks you in this is where the years blur this is where you fool around with the state lines this is where you couldn’t forgive holidays this is where the cards stick a bullet in your chest

Anh vu Bu ch anan

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Watch Anhvu Buchanan read "Reflection", "Friend zone", and "Gamble"

H

H HH

HHHHHHHHHHHHH

THE NEW TATTOO

HH

Very painful, but that’s romanticism if you accept its principles, the Devil says. When you read about it, when you want to live it but you don’t really want to live it, you want to visit but you don’t want to enter any covenants, and I understand that the Devil says. You want the tattoo, just not the big one. Or you want the big one, but in a place where no one can see it. Let me put one in your mind, the Devil says, it’ll be perfect. You get nervous, but the Devil soothes you. He gives you the comfy chair, you get to look at his designs, you like the Black Sabbath one a lot. Then he saws off the top of your skull; you feel the ink run down. You have these thoughts. No matter what, now you know. It’s going to hurt.

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SUMMER WITH COWS
Corkhead, stoppered, in heat, ribboning, empurpled, getting royaled into the you you are you will always be, the way soil gets, at moments, or when you say nothing in your sleep but you can just tell by the way I’m breathing; then what you become, what your real life becomes, newshaped and softskinned you don’t have to wear a coat when you go out but you carry one anyway, folded on your arm, just in case a bull wanders by (do you remember, when we were hurrying by, a herd of them, when we got closer, all of them, they noticed, their immense noticings) not like, but is, is exactly what this is.

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OLIVIA
Confounded with spirits, total yesness, green hands, fresh ivy to hide your houses in. Your daughter’s going to be heliocentric, you better get used to it. A list that includes you and vines, bees which you used to worry about, lots of backgrounds pushed forward. Your daughter kisses you, your speeches are darling, your cursive letters are the envy of all 4th grade teachers everywhere. Your daughter lights up, she shows you where to land, when you’re about to trip over her she keep you from tripping. That’s really nice, but she won’t sit still! Promise her lightning. For each slow suddenness, a liberation. Promise her. Say to her, I will not have a cash register mind! Say to her, I will get better at working in groups! And she will laugh, as time laughs, with her little toy truck, its precious wheels that are going to crush our bodies altogether, freeing us for who knows what.

Hu gh Be h m- St e inbe rg

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Watch Hugh Behm-Steinberg read "The New Tattoo", "Summer With Cows", and "Olivia"

- SET 2 -

AAA
FROM

AAAAAAAAAAA

AT THE END OF DAYS

COMING OF AGE

“In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” Revelation 9:1-10 “I give her sadness, And the gift of pain, The new-moon madness, And the love of rain.” dorothy parker, “the godmother”

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PART I
IN THE BEGINNING
1 Anna dreamt of the red calf again last night. In the dream, the red calf is moving carefully, even delicately, through the aisles of the Walgreen’s on El Camino. Past the diapers, the Benadryl, and the deodorant, examining the wares with its large wet eyes. A value shopper. People walk past as if a brilliantly hued bovine in a suburban drugstore is the most natural thing in the world. But of course nothing about the red calf is natural. From its color (red) to its fleshy frame down to its sex (female), everything has been designed to specification. Nothing left to chance. Nothing much happens in this part of the dream, Anna guesses that’s the point. The red calf is simply accepted. No one questions its presence in the store, much less its right to exist at all. Except her. She follows the red calf as it ambles out the automatic doors into the blinding California sun. I feel responsible. If I can just keep it in sight. Prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, the hands that would do it and the world grievous harm. But somehow she loses the calf in the parking lot.
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She searches, increasingly frantic. Where did it go? Certainly not out onto the street – the vehicles whistling by would have quickly put an end to it. Anna finds herself thinking that would, in fact, be a good thing. It’s not that she wishes the red calf ill. It’s not to blame that it has been engineered for such a purpose. To bring an end to all things. But she hears no screeching of brakes, no blaring horns. The calf has vanished. Then, suddenly, only silence. Traffic ceases. Cars freeze, line up, empty bumper to bumper, in every direction, although the traffic lights continue to cycle through greens, yellows, and reds. The cars are empty. No humans inhabit this landscape any longer. Clearly, Anna has failed. And she is full of woe despite knowing it’s all for the best, despite knowing that everything was foretold. She wakes up in tears. Because she must accept responsibility. Because deep down, she’s one of them. A true believer.

Alice La P lant e

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2 They lived, back then, in Sunnyvale, California, in a housing development built in the 60s, the subdivision having supplanted a citrus grove in the middle of what was then called the Valley of Heart’s Delight. The first tendrils of an invasive species taking root, the foundation for the silicon barracks that would soon obliterate the fields and orchards. Anna’s street contains 25 houses, but just four house models: a rancher, a colonial, a cape cod, and a split level. Over the years people had remodeled, added decks and landscaping, enlarged the windows and converted garages, but the skeletons of the original structures remain. A light goes on upstairs in the colonial across the street, the mirror image of Anna’s own, you know Janie Poole, 13 years old, has taken refuge in the bathroom to avoid the squalling of her newborn twin brothers. If the hall on the bottom floor of the split level next door to the right is suddenly illuminated, Mr. Johnson is helping Mrs. Johnson make it to the master bedroom after she’s enjoyed one scotch too many. The Sunnyvale, California, Post Office knows Anna’s block as the Street of Children’s Names. A year before Anna was born, the city dug up and re-poured the
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sidewalks, which of course tempted all the neighborhood kids to carve their names in the still-wet concrete. After their handiwork was smoothed over by the irate contractor, they made a pact to sneak out that night and re-vandalize the soft grey squares, only this time on a grander scale. Today their names are writ large up and down the block, a bit weathered, but still visible. Each letter takes up an entire pavement panel, and over the years the residents came to call the houses by the children’s names that front them rather than their numerical addresses. Anna—with her mother and father—live in s-a-r-a-h. The Goldschmidts live in k-a-r-i-s. Jim Fulson, the only child of that epic night still living on the street, can be found across the street in c-a-ro-l-i-n-e, the foul Hendersons next door to him in c-l-a-i-r-e. At night you see the bluish glow of television from every family room of every house up and down the block. All except one. The Goldschmidts’, next door to the left. k-a-r-i-s. Because Anna babysits for all these families, she knows where to find the Oreos and the potato chips, how to restock the diet cokes from the shelves in the garage, where the fathers hide their Playboys and Penthouses. The community possesses few secrets, no mysteries. Except for the Goldschmidts. Lars, his mother and father. They were different from the beginning. For starters, they brought so little with them. They didn’t
Alice La P lant e

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even use a moving van. Instead, a caravan of motley vehicles, older Volkswagen vans, battered pick-up trucks, and a host of subcompact cars manufactured last decade pulled up and spit out furniture and lamps and boxes of kitchen stuff onto the lawn. Church friends of the family helping with the move. Many of these things sat for days before gradually being hauled inside. Neighbors were intimate with the Goldschmidts’ possessions long before meeting them. Salvation Army-quality mismatched chairs and a plastic table. Mattresses but as far as the neighbors could tell, no bed frames. Did they sleep on mattresses on the floor (they did). One couch, no recliners. Did they have sufficient furnishings for both the living room and the family room (they didn’t). They hadn’t bothered to pack their clothes – they possessed so few they had just thrown them into the back of their own Civic. The wardrobes of three people wouldn’t even fill a single bedroom closet. No curtains. They simply pinned up bedroom sheets. It must have been dark and stuffy inside the house (it was). Even before meeting them, the neighbors knew something else was wrong. No sign of a television. You could see the glow of lamps through the sheets, follow the shadows of Lars and his parents as they moved from one room to the next. They turned their lights off early. Before 9pm. And then on again early while it was still dark, before anyone else on the street woke.

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Except Anna, of course. She ghosts in the early morning. For more than a year now. No respite. Up at 3am, unable to sleep. Too agitated to lie in bed or even sit. An uncalm insomnia. Her mother tried everything—chamomile tea, hot milk, even pills. Those she flushed down the toilet. But it wasn’t until she met the Goldschmidts that she understood her role. To bear witness to the death of each successive night. To greet the arrival of each new day. To prepare for the pain that follows. Praise the Lord.

Watch Alice LaPlante read from "Coming of Age at The End of Days"

Alice La P lant e

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MY FAVORITE THINGS
for Dana Everything would be easier if I could simply oppose what I love to what I fear, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. So sometimes you end up cuddling hot lava, mad at your taste buds for their naiveté. It would be so much easier with magic glasses. Like those ones that let Joseph Smith see the words that salamander wrote on invisible gold or whatever. Marshmallow roast in the boiler room of Casa Romney. Steamy lozenge against a toxic social. I like to take it rectally but then I would. That won’t surprise any of you little Swiss fuckers with pitch as perfect as your blonde parts. Do re me fa so my face always looks like somebody stinks. And it does, they do, my favorite things. When dogs drool all over the divan I intend to sleep on when I realize my love is bird puke then I try and docent the meanderings of psychic life. In a field in upstate New York, picking little bird bones out of tonsil scars. I’m trying to think about my favorite things but my avatar is depressed. I’ve got to ply it with watery opiate (one of my favorite things)
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BB

BBBB

BBBBBB

B

as if my vital haptic organs were one of those soccer players, writhing on the turf in histrionic agony until the coach comes with magic spray and we all see that another world is not only possible but that we already live there. Candlesticks cleaning themselves and whatnot. While we spend our liberated time grasping the nuances of the German tense system and saddle suckers. When the knee breaks, when the cop knocks, when my book busts. When my dentist friend can’t cop me parlor tanks of Novocaine. When the brig leaks. Then I think I think of my favorite things. Poetry, oysters, idle talk, Dee Dee Ramone barking 1 2 3 4, astrology, the way teeth feel fucked after a long floss. You can ask your tongue what it likes but, ironically, the tongue just lays there. A big bacteria magnet but also incredibly useful. One of my favorite things. When my tongue talks to my teeth it speaks in a luscious dialect. Getting weird on the walk to the party. Sometimes I get so sick of my crazy friends, walking together on the sidewalk totally absorbed by their own literally epic narcissism but to live with them in a communist world is one of my favorite things. Picking gum out of each other’s gums. Brushing bird puke from each other’s hair like wet dandruff. The poem won’t overthrow the government, but the poem is one of my favorite things, and can be considered when the friend dies, when the neighbor
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is an asshole to you on the stairs. When you’re feeling sad, stop watching The Office. Touch my taint and I’ll touch yours. But do stop watching The Office. Let’s do it in the Mormon Tabernacle. Yes we’ll get arrested but then we can write prison poetry. One of our favorite things. I feel like I’ve sucked enough for two lives, mine and a frisky doppelganger’s. Touching some nun’s taint in wherever Austria butts up against a Nazi-free Switzerland. Playing acoustic guitar and shoving schnitzel into each other’s open mouths, yum. My friends are actually considering the idea that dachshunds are better than pathetic liberals. Well okay. The dog does anything for a taste of pressed veal penis. One of its favorite things. When the canines come, when the seals flood one who merely proposed to hustle and ceaselessly hustle, when the chair sways, when the airplane dips, when I’m feeling bad. When you think of your favorite things in the middle of an event that is terrifying or disgusting it is of course an act of total denial. Magic glasses balm against a boring life in upstate New York. You know I feel Joseph Smith, who only wanted direct contact with the prosody of heroic critters. You think it’s fun to be a Mormon? You think it’s fun to be an oyster fuck no. Those freaky white people in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Singing in eerily perfect harmony. Communism here on Earth, in Utah I mean. In a sodaless utopia that I sing from the far periphery. Rubbing softest ass. Licking the backs of my molars. Loving how nasty it is to be embodied and how better it is to be nasty than dead.
Brandon Brown

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DREAD FLOWER POEM
“Ah, what an age it is When to speak of trees is almost a crime” brecht

I’m not scared of flower poems. I’m scared of Romance. In the way you dread bad cholesterol, exiling all that good cholesterol, trampling interior orchards. I look into the folds of a flower to deliver me from Romance. All I get a whiff of is a gentrifying neighborhood, predictable as it is lamentable. You don’t chew on a rose branch without giving it a pre-soak, and a neighborhood is gentrified as soon as it has neighbors. Still, the point is I looked into a flower and I saw architecture! The Giant Value 99 cent store on Mission Street is going out of business so a movie theater that serves beer and veggie burgers can move in. It was too big and offered too many values to bloom in such a garden any longer. Buds bud, petals stuck eye-booger fast to everything. Rent winding up
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the vertical length of its imposing façade. Awful whites, their guilt rococo, form advisory boards so as to formalize an apology indistinguishable from the wrong. There are two kinds of flowers. Those you use to suck milk, and those that suck the milk out of you. My favorite is Billy Balls. Do you know these flowers? Look into Billy Balls and there is no logic, no Romance. It’s all pouty fluff. Rasberry ass. Does my flower poetry make you sad for me? What is he doing with his life, you think, to spend it gazing into the hearts of daisies, baking a dozen kush snickerdoodles, smelling surface great but masking new hygienic lows. My poem tells you how to kill the world’s cops. No, literally. How to crush the petals of the philodendron whose lovely Greek name belies its toxicity. How to siphon it into headquarters so their corpses pile and with it the money system. Amputated of its army everything flourishes. You’ll find me with the maggots, singing so freaky, so aromatic, so marvelous like a movie theater that serves caramel tots. I met somebody who had catullus
Brandon Brown

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tattooed across his torso. Do not do this. Poetry’s toxicity is effective without reiterating it on skin. And while his torso was shapely, smooth and hairless as a hungry sunflower, it was too Romantic for my regular poetry much less my flower poetry to approve his particular devotion to imperial art. Some say we won’t even want poems when the coming insurrection comes and maybe not. The only thing we need is air and beer and tater tots. But we can still like Velazquez who they say could “paint the air” but mostly painted the shithead king of Spain. And this is what I mean! Streets free of Romance. Cops overdosing on crown vetch, their corpses fertilizing a big long field of Billy Balls. Everybody writing long works of prose in praise of them. Swimming laps in buoyant hats. Laughing finally freed from ridicule. My cholesterol is excellent. “Scary good” even, which means virtue so excessive it casts doubt about its veracity. Like sex with Aphrodite. It’s hot—I mean it’s scalding. My doctor asked if I had a typical American diet. Was he asking me to have dinner with him? At this new theater, cinematic imagery and Coors combine in the same gulp. Put out your hand.
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Isn’t there a veggie burger, suddenly, there? Romance on the contrary is all about vanishing. Sweaty burghers swoop in, make your markets suck. And this is why I’m dedicating the next 4-6 months of my life to flower poems. To make your dread lighter my luvs. Wearing a Tommy Hilfiger tulip toga, scary clean. Scary white. Whipping down the aisles of your corner stores, streaked with what hopefully is pollen. Aromatic, unafraid, buffing up a lyre.

Brandon Brown

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CALIFORNIA
You think you live in California already, but then you go to a solstice party. And it is wonderful! You read Midwinter’s Day there with your friends, just like they do in Brooklyn or Lenox Mass. Laurel and I had pre-party tacos and they were good because we were in California. Laurel as in Canyon. Joni Mitchell and I kind of “cosmic comrades.” When a storm comes, I hear the air fizz on Beats by Dre. Drizzle in Berkeley, thunder in Oakland, California knows how to party. Solstice party. I’m changing my name to Jacques Joni Mitchell Brown. It’s so easy to do here. When it’s notarized we’ll all go to bed, together. It is California after all. Leave the rent in the litter box by big piles of medicinal catnip. The days start getting longer starting already, but Joni Mitchell lives forever. Take me as I am. Laurel takes me home and it’s almost morning. You can tell by the beer in the light, Bernadette, you can tell the whole day had been reading your book.
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WIND
I’m on this medication and one of the side effects is that it makes you fart. Potential side effects I should say. So if it smells like a fart, don’t look at this poem with that “I know you farted” glare, so haughty for someone whose entorhinal cortex is experiencing extreme duress. I hate taking medications (except for alcohol, nicotine, ibuprofen, cannabis, Vicodin, promethazine, adderall, Percocet, oxycontin, morphine, psilocybin, caffeine, and melatonin) so I search the side effects rigorously trying to find a reason to stop the dose. For this one, instead of saying “gas” or whatever, the symptom was listed as “wind.” Now, considered historically, the power to make wind is the prerogative of the gods. Hardly a negative symptom. Big gusts billow, making sailors happy. Making poets so happy they write long poems about you in excellent Latin. Making whales really happy. So happy they spit puke on the beach. Their puke is called ambergris and because it’s used in perfume fetches a fortune for those who find
Brandon Brown

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it. Remember this poem next time you’re on the beach, watching the water shiver. That’s also watching wind. Ambergris looks like a prop from a Matthew Barney film about outer space satyrs wrestling in goop. It smells horrible. But only for a while. Then it starts to smell like stale old whale puke.

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- july 9, 2013 -

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