The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

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APRIL 2022 Issue


Countdown to Plants and Planets

Gerard’s Herball asks    Why look up at the sky
When all around your feet are these
Green beings ready to be seen?
Atria are the receiving rooms of our heart’s blood

So where are the hearts of plants and planets?
A core to where each stem blood leads?
This flow of would-be water or gaseous
Stripéd storms?   Up there on the horizon

Ursa Major   on the rim of Manhattan
Lumbers over the edge of night —
The next planet intones Hello
It’s a mystery we can’t hear    unless

We hold our ears close    to shells or plants
Awake    or asleep    at the same time    or maybe   never

Playful harlequin jumps

    Around the windshield wipers of my car

As we glide secretly through gray New York

    Me and my private active mind

Sounds like kittens on the keys

    But is actually a sophisticated code

  For universal crashing all around

Universities have not a clue

   About all the things we poets do

    Waves of birds drink sweet nectar of notes

Around the water circle of the park

  Rich with natural innuendo

A pin pricks the balloon of stress at my neck

     Then I float free and clear alert to all associative

Lines arising as I walk through my year

(during an excerpt of Cage’s Music of Changes)


(I dressed you up in yellow)

The day after you were born
I wrapped you up in yellow
A hand knit scarf
Swaddled in yellow

To confound the question
Boy or Girl   as it is the first and foremost
In our culture
It was cold December
Your grandfather brought me
a handmade drive-by omelet

Yellow with butter
And red wine to fortify
All the blood I had lost


Wrapped in yellow
You saw the world for the first
Time — it was 12th Street


Reassignment of ley lines singing
Trace and redraw their power
Within a gender expansive hour

That’s American

The place where Helen’s tears grow in fields
Under electricity towers
The way we are always having to run speed tests
That’s American where you could get shot for crossing
Out a word
In the land of the free and the home of the knave
That’s American where you can actually eat the fungal network,
Where you can either have it delivered
Or be the delivery service
Or go into unpaid labor
And have to go back to work the next week
That’s American – look at those clouds
When we learn from each other without even meaning to
That’s the American persona living in a mobile home
Down the road from the store
There’s a wild cat living in the grass that’s American
And invasive at the same time
That crawls on hands and knees through glittering piles of glitter
That will never go away even in a million years
They just keep making more if it that’s American
Shiny and undulating sea to shining sea
Indulgent thus thinking herself free
From responsibility
That’s American how that works
That’s American Airlines
Packing people in like sardines
That’s American pie you and I
It’s so American to roast marshmallows
Made of chemicals
American-made cars make a strange sound when crushed at the dump
But they’ll pay you 300 dollars

The Floating

Stunned in a room more mini loft than log cabin
I borrow a digging tool I don't know the name of
that feels like an extension of my arm.
High coyote burbles
from over the ridge, named for a boy who
became a villain, a town island, a rebel I never knew.
We are meant to repeat his name as the name of our own road
every time we give directions. Instead
we say Bumpety-Bump-Bump a kind of ice cream
which spreads its many-flavored bands of gold
into the carton around itself as it melts. The pears are rotting.
I call Mom to ask what’s the latest on Antique Roadshow.
Some shield or stinkbugs in the skylight make their way from one
uncleanable beam to another; the credit unions have all closed.
I tell her to do labor exchange — for what, she says.
One down hill neighbor posts “Toolism:
the Best Way to move to the Jewel of the Blueridge”
as if in each branch neighbor’s pleasure bloomed
an affirmation. Mules escape their pastures. Clabber is made
into buttermilk
down the steep banks of the land I wish I could buy
loaded with ginseng and chickweed but I could go there anyway to make next year’s
salads, if the next door neighbors come back
next year, and we hope they do. I say we,
but I’m closer to a they or at least my kid is. Living temporarily
on a mountain named Floating, who were
we who are usually so exacting?
I grow a little stiff in my neck, a little leaner with all the no restaurant going, a little itchier with all the compulsive digging up poison ivy vines, a little
tomato with smiling.
I must needs to paquette my poems.
The fall leaves dead because of drought
because who-so-ever lives here cares enough
to let their redbuds go. I must
needs to conquer the notion
to go swim in the ocean.
Something in me can’t know
what’s stronger. The ladybugs
who are really japanese beetles in disguise
for whom anything is a couch right now.
What sounded like a hard singular rain
was actually acorns bouncing off the green tin roof from a great height.
I might have hit a monarch butterfly on the interstate
or it might have blown off the grill and between the wheels.
I have no interest in presidents.

(note: this is a Syntactical Chimerical Rewrite of Ari Banias poem “The Happy” done in Sophia Dahlin’s
Generative Poetry workshop)


Lee Ann Brown

Lee Ann Brown is the author of numerous poetry books including as Polyverse (Sun & Moon Press), The Sleep That Changed Everything(Wesleyan University Press), In the Laurels, Caught (Fence Books), Crowns of Charlotte (Carolina Wren Press), and Other Archer (CIMP), as well as numerous collaborative projects and performances such as Bagatelles for Cornell (Propolis Press) and an upcoming appearance as "The Vision" in a Torn Page parlor's Michael McClure's anti-war play Spider Rabbit. Critical and curatorial work includes editing Tender Buttons Press, which she talked about on Publishing-in-Transit: Tender Buttons Press: Editors and Writers in Conversation and co-editor of a book on Black Mountain College, Far from the Centers of Ambition (Lorimer Press), one of 32 poets writing Midwinter Constellation (Black Lawrence Press), and an essay on Carla Harryman in Laynie Browne's A Forest on Many Stems: Essays on the Poets Novel (Nightboat).


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

All Issues