Brendan Constantine is a poet based in Los Angeles (USA). He is author
of several collections of poetry and his work is widely anthologized. He
teaches at the Windward School and, since 2017, has been developing
workshops for writers with aphasia and traumatic brain injuries.
I want to say yes.
You weren't listening.
We're all friends here.
I'll check the big calendar.
Not if my dead ancestors can help it.
Soon as you're ready.
If there was any justice, we'd all be really expensive bars of soap.
You should eat.
That's how they do it in Thebes.
Overhead lighting, go figure.
If you don't mind upsetting everyone.
Not my colosseum, not my elephants.
My poem doesn't understand you, either.
Pretend I'm there.
Fuck the order of succession.
Give me a minute.
Give me another minute.
We're in love but it's early.
Lullaby with Three Pills Left
The two grey houses in my window
just made a baby house. It's crying.
I wonder if the night will bear it,
or decide it's one noise too many
and drag back yesterday. The proper way
to hold an infant is to cradle its head
so that it won't collapse, so that birds
won't nest in its birthdays. From my bed,
if I raise my head on two pillows I can
see the end of October and the neighborhood.
It glows like a wedding dress in a locker.
I ask you, who would bring another house
into the world, as though there wasn't enough
sadness and escrow. Better to adopt, I say.
There are so many rooms no one wants.
It's all I can do to feed this one. It eats
books and t-shirts like a fiend. I say this aloud
and a lamp flashes in the newborn house,
baby's first light. This calls for drinks. This
calls for my last three pills and all the pictures
on my phone. They say if you scroll through them
with your nose against the screen, you'll see
the person who will one day evict you.
I haven't tried. I get along fine without me.
The proper way to put a house to bed
is to gather its beams to you and lay down
together. If it struggles, keep holding on
until it remembers its life as an acorn.
If you can sing like grass, all the better.
I was reading your poem, in a small room
in the mountains and I was tired, making
myself do it because I said I would. To read
this way is like driving on bad ice, at any
moment you can slide into the wrong
meaning of a word, and not know until
you hit a harder one. Or worse, just keep
sliding and never know how wrong
you really are. I got to the part where
the woman stepped out into evening,
where you say her dress was the color
of sunset, how it shone like satin, but
I thought it shone like Satan and was
sure I understood. I closed the book
thinking of how Satan shines. Of course,
he's like the sunset, a color more beautiful
and difficult than red. He is, in fact, the sun
going away and where he goes always
looks like a good time, a good old time,
just past those clouds, just down the hall
where something flickers, where music
softens to a better melody, laughter
rises then falls further away, which is
why night is always trying to follow, like
a child who wants to go where the big
kids are going, the tall backs, where
the songs and the colors and the girl
in the unbelievable dress are sure to be.
I woke and read the passage over, spent
the morning thinking about satin, how
disappointing it is. Like silk but not silk,
shining but worthless, imitation fire. I can
never tell you this, of course. So, I changed
the facts, added a woman, a sunset. It was
another word that brought the devil,
a word you used like a fool.
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