Jason Braun currently teaches English and is the Associate Editor of Sou'wester at
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (USA). He has published fiction, poetry,
reported or been featured in The Riverfont Times, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Drum
Voices Review, The Evergreen Review, The Nashville City Paper, Jane Freidman's blog,
and many more.
What the Arborist Cannot Know
This is the scar that nine years of frost
carved 'round my skin in rings.
This is where Jack and Jill got lost
on forest hill; looking back, both turned to ash.
The names of dugout boats my bones have been.
The conjuring of maple blood after morning's dearth.
The one good limb snaring time to the dirge
of termites and lumberjack who slumber in my mossy path.
A time portal like insects trapped in amber.
This list is for the god of cedar trees
and those wolves that feed the feral child wrapped in leaves.
The ache of a thousand spruce acres
taken for schoolchildren's fiddles.
This is a birdless warble.
The asexual life of a laurel tree.
Ovid's loveless arrow coated in lead.
A breathless mannequin fighting a restless man again.
A fir tree teeming with monarchs.
This is where a butterfly sat dreaming she was a girl.
She woke and carved her name in my trunk,
then walked away, shivering in the starlight.
This is me after ten hollow years.
This is the dirt that heaved slightly
as I leaned over, falling, and still trying to follow.
The man constructing
New York City in his back-
yard at one eighty-eighth scale,
plans a moonlit ambling through
Central Park and the dog piss,
past dead ants outside Radio City,
and discovers a mole's sinking trail,
the labor of pawing at the plural
of apocalypse in clay,
loam, and nightcrawlers
where Manhattan had been,
hearing the sound of National Guard
tanks closing in or his wife Volvoing
home, ending this rendition
of the lover he once was
with that girl who ran off
and left him with no
word for denouement—that's me.
Overhearing Black Power Poems
Amiri Baraka is just under
five feet of lightning:
You Christians should ask
yourself why they killed Jesus,
ripping/reciting and accompanying
himself on an imaginary
grand piano and goddamn
if we all ain't hearing it.
Is there an opposite of Du Bois's
Am I tuning into that now?
I was sick before I got here,
but didn't want to miss this,
I could spit and wheeze anytime.
I'm digging this, but starting to cough.
Breaking away, I sidestep towards the door.
Afraid that this legend will hear me,
laugh off my large white frame,
See now, whitey can't breathe
all this in, he's allergic and on the run.
If I was him, I would.
And if I was an adman, I'd sell
about a billion cough drops
switching pitches and slogans
on this unspoken fear of being read
or misread as a white male
like all the others that catches on something
rickety in the machinery of a throat.
Before the Victrola everybody sang,
put on skits, or waltzed around their homes.
Today you still make that triple threat
sting, but I feel another man mouthing
my words over top of the nudes
I wrote of you. Record over me if you must
in the manner of palimpsest.
Park me at river's bottom under catfish
shit, then I'll burn the parchment
before the water's weight
blows into my ear through the broken
window like a whispered secret from the other
side of the first wet fresco.
Remember me in phantom echo of orgasm's
call and answer, flickering mayfly wings,
the mistakes and plane tickets we can't take back,
the biplanes power, putting wind through a cutter,
scraping it clean to use again, like Cicero's wax
tablets reheated and dripped slowly
across your back that last time I was in New York.
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