Three Poems by Michael Brown

Crab Legs

We wake up late because we stayed
Up all night waiting for the money
To hit, because our hunger stayed
The night and hangs, today, like honey,

Like stars, from the Great Bear’s son’s mouth.
The lights of buildings hang like teeth,
Constellatory teeth,
Hang like the golden teeth
Arranged in Daddy’s mouth

When he would come on food stamps day
To eat a little something too.
Constellatory teeth that lie
On Mommy’s counter slick with dew-

like grease, and after this, the feast!
We gorge ourselves on the seafood
We bought that seems to widen, yeast-
like, in my eyes that drop their hoods

As I get sleepy. Daddy takes
Me to my room to sleep, my belly
Empty. They bicker as sleep makes
A constellation of the deli.


So I was walking through the garden section
At work, and it was raining really hard,
And I heard chirping coming through the rain.
I heard it coming from the rafters. I looked up
To see birds flitting, like kids running through
The store, among the rafters, so I stopped.

The sounds those birds made to each other was
Like laughter flitting from each rafter. . . . And
It made me think about the trip I took
To Connecticut, right by the Sound, the Long
Island Sound, where I opened my screen door

To see a rabbit crouched in the grass, pawing
At its pink nose, and robins hopping,
Their bellies red and puffy as some drunks
With beer guts bouncing on some coals in Hell.
They made me want to go and see the sea.

I went and watched the tides whenever I
Felt like Odysseus at Erebus,
The shades indifferent to him

Until he offered up some blood. Blood made them break
From drifting back and forth
Like waves he’d just departed from
To answer questions that he posed.

And I swear that the silence over there
Was like that questioning of shades,

In that the tides reminded me of spirits rolling
From muteness out to beaches where the living call,
And speech was like the rocks the tides revealed,
The waypoint between them and us, between
My father and his grandma’s ghost.

But Robin, the old crackhead from by here,
Comes walking up like Caliban on crack,
And smiles at me, hugs me, asks for a loose,
And plots on how to beg my mom for change,
Then DVD, red tufts of naps beneath
His fitted hat, comes carrying a fish jaw,
Saying someone already ate the head,
And wishes me, my mom, and Robin, too,
A happy Ramadan, and to be safe,
But when I tell a friend about the jaw
He quotes Mo-G on munafiquns and fakes.

I think all that it is is that he lacks
The words to tell me that it’s his first iftar,
The first one in the lunar year for all,
So, when I finally got your text at noon
About how you had celebrated sehri,
And I’d just heard those birds in flossy mist
Like mimics for the waves that sat through silence
With me as I feared for my father’s shade,

The thought of all the silence that was there
No longer makes me cry: my father follows
The late-night traffic all the way to all
The kin his grandma left on Georgia pines,
And I, because you gave the words to me,
Knew that you ate and fasted while he rose.

11 North

These are the things I wish to leave.

The consolations of the night.
Things that the whinnying mares of wind carry
Toward windows that will not let any of it in.

The nighted symptoms of the sickness.
Things that push us toward the toilet for after-midnight pisses
Before the hands come knocking in interruption for the census.

The sluggish coming of each canonical hour.
Things that goad our gliding feet from room to atrium
Where we read the poorly translated Confessions of Augustine.

These are the nightly tests of attrition.
Things that we want to watch on television
Require these acts of consecration.

This is everything I wish to leave.