The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

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NOV 2020 Issue

Riding Death

        (lost highway

   (when he was in his prime,

   when he was in his prime

   (break summer, paint fear

   (he was wild, a little wild (he’s

   dying (you can’t exhale (he’s

   dying (he’s asking why you

   love him

   (lost highway (kisses

   that we

   share across the sky (he

   is the drunk lane, the

   mayor, drunk lake,


   in the lake, he’s so

   tired and he can’t


   (my father just feels Sidney

   Bechet, Hart Crane, Krazy Kat

   (now he doesn’t have any (he

   gives life (kisses that we

   share across

   the sky

   (lost highway

   (the book will save the book

   (oil will kill the world (he’s just

   trying to see, pay attention (he


   (he said joy

   (he said feel this (blue green

   voice (he said violet, blue


   pushes river light, birches

   (lost highway

   (he’s dying in a town

   full of rabbits (he’s

   dying, lying on the


   (lost highway

   (he hates “sentimental slop” (hold

   his hand, he’s from Coney Island,

   he’s tougher

   than you

   (he says, when I squeeze your hand

   (I’m squeezing her hand

   (his mother in the room (his

   mother’s me (tell him (tell

   him (your mother

   loves you (lost highway

   (branches, paradise (are you blue,

   are you green, are you fire, are

   you gold (have you come, have you

   come, to sing to me, to sing to me

   (lost highway (drunk like coins, like

   coins (“our lifestyle is wrecking the

   planet for Christ’s sake” (she’s

   drunk like a gold coin, he’s drunk

   like a gold coin

   (the tv says the tv

   (farmers are farmers

   (corporations eat them

   (rabbits are perfect

   (there was always all this death,

    there was always a photo, a photo

   and money (rain in the street, a bus,

   and a photo of money

   (ice and the river (lost highway

   (blue night comes (no, no one

   (nobody dies (nobody loses (lost


   (where is the distance, where are the

   gym shoes, where are the toe nails,

   where is the pain, where are the

   toenails, please stop this screaming,

   please breathe my newsprint, my

   eyes don’t fit

   (lost highway (joy could (blue fire

   (torn blue (you (dear one (dear

   smart, shining you (dear you (my

   father’s what (my father’s rain

   becoming rain (lost highway

   (soft wind like a road

   (done (I wrote done

   (I tried to write don’t

   (don’t, don’t, don’t


Joseph Lease

Joseph Lease’s critically acclaimed books of poetry include Testify (Coffee House Press, 2011) and Broken World (Coffee House Press, 2007). Lease’s poems “‘Broken World’ (For James Assatly)” and “Send My Roots Rain” were anthologized in Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (Norton). Lease’s poem “Free Again (Why don’t people)” was published in The New York Times. He is a Professor of Writing and Literature at California College of the Arts.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

All Issues