Colorado State University Center for Literary Publishing

Excerpt from Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems

A Thing Defined

There is no such thing as a happy
person. The hour has come

for generalizations, meaning
falsehoods winningly articulated.

Person: to stand in the way of
something happening naturally.

Happiness: the metal thing

in a car that goes in and out, making
that pshht-pshht sound.

I suppose this is also the hour

of definitions. And complaints.
Did you ever notice that if you sit still

long enough, you just get dirty?
Brenda says that most dust

is just dead skin cells. What
are the chances

that a particular flake of dead skin

will return, like a migrating animal,
to its native spot

on its former body? The hour
of speculations is at hand! Chances are

grim, my friend, very grim, and

so is this gray weather.
Friend: cacophonous; birdlike; obsessed.

Very: to clap hands, especially
in the absence

of cause for celebration.

The apparition of these raindrops outside;
flakes of dead skin resettling atop live skin.

The hour—of what?—has ended.
Hour: a thing defined in terms of itself.




I Am A Father’s Son

I am a father’s son, a blue jay
born of the scattered ashes
of another life. As my father
tries to keep the sun from setting
he denies me the moon, which
was what first lured me out
of my mother, not him. I am
the bat-creature that haunted
my father, one of the demons
that haunt all fathers’ dreams,
in which they are glad their sons
are uglier than they, in which
they are afraid their sons
might bite. I know a father’s
love is a cocktail of fear and guilt,
a slurred speech delivered
in the wee hours of a cold night,
for so is the love of a son, who
wants only to set fire to the
TV den his father has built with
father-money then watch the rest
consumed in the flames. He will
tell his friends he had no father.
He sprung from the earth on
a chilly autumn day and was
taught to hunt by wolves. He
will dash the skulls of pigeons
on rocks and say he is eager
to eat them raw. He will laugh
at his friends for their love
of their fathers, then grind his skull
on a rock till it bleeds. I must
protect my father from the wild
horses, who scour the fields and
cannot tell his smell from mine.




Before the Sea Was Molten


A death specter
has cast its shadow over us for twelve years or more, 

and perhaps it was there from the beginning, before
you met my mother, your wife, before she died, before

your sister took her life, before the summer
when your father and grandfather died, 
                                                                    	before you

were born and your father’s father’s father died, and his
mother died and her mother died and her grandmother passed

away, before Eve died with Adam, before fish crawling

up and out from the sea, before the sea was molten
rock, before the rock was dust still settling
                                                                        	    and congealing
into a ball of earth.  

Before there was just
a grim, black shadow cast in the blackness of a long, 
long night—

what else could there have been at the beginning but nothing?

If something was there, we would have to go back
to a time before it, when darkness cast only darkness
into darkness. This is one 

part of the long history of my family. The other part is
a history of light.


Read more about Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems.