I'm pretty over being told to put my hands up in the air...
Brandon O'Brien is a writer and poet from Trinidad. This is his other brain.
Caution: May contain intense critical analysis, long rants, and uncomfortable (but necessary) subject matter.
You probably won’t find me back here any time soon.
It’s been a hard couple of days to try to
make dates, my dance card is full up to
its neck in dust and other people’s talk and
you serious? and we does only deal with
folks who serious and lots of longing, too.
I thought I saw you out of the corner of my eye
walk down Ariapita Avenue late last evening
but it was just some spry little girl in a green skirt
on her way to whatever was hip and saccharine in the city
on a Wednesday evening. What even would that be?
I wanted to ask you, but I figured you’d be busy.
I wanted to say how tired I am of the idea of work
but I figured you’d be busy from taking that theory
into practice, from planning, from showing me up
with regard to the performance of adulthood -
you’re a natural, doll, a real natural,
I could learn a couple of things from you.
I want to be wherever you are
because you are always far away from whatever
I have to do and dread doing. Do you see
the hilarity of that? We’d never see each other
again if that affect is true, I think.
So I’ll go first. I’ll leave through the kitchen door
with neither note nor nimble foot;
I’ll give no past or prior warning,
because I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment
thinking you would if the time came,
and the time can only come,
that’s what time does, inch toward you,
so I won’t wait for the time when you change
your name to Busy and your age to Tired,
when your watch runs dry for me.
Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to learn from you?
The thing that makes children into adults?
The fear, like dust in the lungs, that one day
no one will think you worthy of their eyes or ears?
The fear that none of your cooing will make
strangers swoon, that you are not baby-lovely any more?
Loneliness? Is that what age gives me?
That’s what time does, inch toward you.
I’ll close the door on my way out, I promise you that.
I don’t think I could trust you to do the same,
so don’t complain.
I’ve been hating you real easy lately;
your voice still lingers in my dreams sometimes
and I can see the indentations your shadow makes
on mall food court chairs to make me sick.
Every day is another random memento
fit for the flames of Gehenna, and I don’t
know if I revel or revere finding those cursed things
yet. I grow fond of dancing to forget,
and I found a whole new me you’ll never get to
love or loathe or tear apart
in my waist, I love that part most of all,
that this is not something you have scarred
or scared off. I hate the you that took the rest,
and the you that pretends that they weren’t gone;
I hate the you that drove fists in me
and answered me in screams;
I hate the you that put my passions in the sea
and said saving them from drowning meant deserting you.
I hate most of all the you
that made me wait so long to see the me I could have loved
all this time instead. I hate the you that wouldn’t leave my head.
All the keys you bought to break into me are melted down
into an effigy around my neck
and I will wear that one til I fall down.
I’ll dance on the loose pages of
all the doubts I had to lay in bed beside, I’ll sing salacious
strength in their ears til they scream to you that I’ve been cruel
to them. I’ll love better than your fists can bruise,
and I’ll make you watch. This is how badly I hate you.
Maybe one day I won’t. I am really hoping one day I stop.
But hating you has come far too simply as of late.
I strain for the right register
to hum the song of the witch
and I live beneath the hands of
sculptors, the needle
of designers, the lead of artists
I is a weed
look at all de t’ings I does drink
one day I go get big like you
just you wait and see.
Hanging out with thrillingbird yesterday and it dawns on me that community is not forced; movement is not something you have to teach nature, it is a thing nature is good at. This has been a month of Movement as Going With The Flow.
Snippet from an incomplete poem. Soon come.
All you are,
more likely than not,
is the collected strivings of all the times
you thought you’d be a more interesting person to someone else
if you just read more Martin Carter,
if you just read more Borges,
if you just read more Rainbow Rowell,
if you just read more Junot Diaz,
if you just listened to more jazz,
if you just listened to more Shabazz Palaces,
if you just listened to more hip-hop,
if you just listened to more obscure synthpop
with the treble making trouble on the walls
and leaving neon stains that won’t come out
no matter how hard you pray,
if you just ate less meat,
if you just drank a flavour of coffee you can’t pronounce,
if you just drank vodka martinis extra dirty shaken not stirred,
if you just drank vodka on the rocks through
a straw you couldn’t strain your hope through,
if you just drank,
if you just smoked a joint
and joined us in ignoring the days we fear,
if you just loc’d your hair,
if you just relaxed your hair,
if you just paid me a compliment
every once in a while,
if you just were worth
if you just kept up with me,
if you just knew the words to a musical by heart,
if you just kissed on the first date
all black leather jacket and lipstick that perfect shade of red
or lime green because
you just didn’t look like you were one of those folks on TV,
if you just looked as good as those folks on TV,
if you just leaned in all tempting in a selfie
so we could see just the parts we were looking at,
if you just didn’t sound so smart all the time,
if you just watched more anime,
if you just read more comic books,
if you just knew who we were so in love with from the movies
so when we swoon you don’t do what you do
broodingly over the window balcony
like we’re boring you,
if you just didn’t feel so down all the time,
if you just helped me not feel so down all the time,
if you just cried once in a while
so I could know what we’re all better than you about,
if you just
stopped staring so blankly at our intentions
feeling something more than empty and listless
because god, does that frighten us,
feeling lifted or some shit,
transcendent, greater than our mess,
not fearful, worshipful,
lonely, screwed-up, dependent,
but seeing the crack in the wall
and wanting to punch it
with all your fear.
If you just left the plugs of our hollow hearts alone
and be what we need to love
to feel loved,
we could have kept you around, you know.
And so it begins,
the long mental pursuit of romance,
that which leaves me strung out and dreaming,
your name on my lips like incantation,
your face behind my eyes like the hope of treasure;
everything about you glistens in the abstract,
and all my memories are wide, well-inked tales
of a princess beside my poverty
and still gleaming,
gleaming like goddess-smile,
gleaming like gold,
as if I have something I can give you.
This is how daily glowing entries in diaries begin.
This is how the weekly factory of romantic poetry begins.
This is how my gasps and shyness begins.
This is how the trials of knights’ swords and
the hard dreaming of their hands begin.
If I could call your name without a fear
of closed balcony windows or blushing goodbyes, I would,
but that is not how my heart was built.
I leave this to rest upon the wings
of those angel-things that flutter about
and make such a racket in my head
when I could not be thinking about you instead.
So it begins.
I imagine what one
must do when the enemy, red-eyed
and bellowing, advances to the door
is that they must bare the neck unrepentantly,
that if they meet your apology with wide screams
you must paint your neck red,
that if they must be cruel
you must sauté your neck,
that if they presume your intentions
because their story of you sounds better
than what is written in the truth,
then you should take a marker
and run it through the truth
and draw a picture of yourself with
buck teeth and cross-eyes and
a slit throat with
blood all about your neck.
The other day I told my mother
that if she tells those who love her that they’re worthless
they may just believe it.
She called me a blasphemer
and slammed the door.
Well, gosh, sorry,
I’ll keep my two-plus-twos and
Newton’s apples to myself, then.
I don’t know how armistice works.
Does it work like surrender?
Or is it something broader
and less susceptible to bleeding out,
a thing more bulletproof?
I’ve long since meant no harm,
but I suppose if it were so easy for
wars to end, we wouldn’t have this problem.
I thought if they knew
my white flag was what I wore
to bed at night to ease their pain
we’d all be done,
but for some, if you’re already on the wrong side,
you may as well win the battle as consolation, right?
how do I manage
to become impressive
to those by whom I am impressed
when they would dare
ask the question,
'how do I manage
to become impressive’?
potential losses make me stiff,
and the fear of some unhelpful rage
makes me feel this special kind of nervous
where I think the skin on my head
is pulling away from my skull in all directions,
trying to flee.
no metaphor, I feel
like I’m detaching with worry.
when you can run, right?
I want to ask for directness, because
if I can’t, then I’ll always be worried
and clutching. I do that.
so here’s it -
polish your brashness and brandish it,
run me through, rev up the hilt
each time til it tears me down,
because every refused moment
just makes the thing hurt more on all sides.
it will never have been the first time
that anyone’s fears have knocked
dropping by unannounced for dinner
and dinning at the table and
dinning into them
that worthlessness is an integer
they’ll always equal.
I’ll be stiff, I’ll have to be,
the death will come like it must,
you can’t be afraid of the death for me,
or else I kill you instead.
do it, or dispel it,
the thing’s already upon me,
compassion is not putting off the stab,
it’s coming from the face,
it’s leaving the blade in
so I can count a few more moments
and a few less fears.
I’m not trying to be guilty.
I’m just trying to understand what it means
when I’m walking down my path to home
at ten in the night
past flickering or long-dead street lamps
and seeing hurried strides
from school uniform skirts ahead of me.
I know I’m no
monster, but can that ever
What’s more useful,
dull knives that tell the once-bitten
'but I'm not sharp!', or
dull knives that tell the sharp
to put up their dukes?
Because the frightened
have been told all the wrong things
about monsters -
that there are none
under the bed, that they’re only
in the closets of bad girls, are you
bad, are you lowly?
Not where the garlic is,
not where they can get a stake.
And I? Look at me,
I glisten with wickedness,
it’s written in the veins of my eyes,
and sometimes even I slip into its full-moon snare;
just put the blood of a woman
before me once and I will whimper
and whatever grim will in my chest
that spins alongside the gears of the world
will clatter against my bones
and I’ll have to howl even louder in protest
than in pride just to not
tear something apart -
I am a monster,
I know I’m no
monster, but I know what I am.
This is no sheer resemblance.
I am sired by it.
When it sings,
I do not even notice there is a song
so much as something sounds like an order.
And I know it’s wrong
like every other noble thing that bears the skin
of wicked spirits,
so I look at my cravings harder than most.
Even that doesn’t help.
What helps is
being aware that things avoid me in the dark,
and putting my sharp teeth
into the necks of things that look like me
when they growl and thirst for innocents.
To you all,
all of you who ask
for me to list my fears,
I am just afraid.
Everything I see of your constructions are
rules placed upon
the things that you can break of me or
the things that you would ask me to break
so I have been running
and hiding under gazette sheets
and drinking rainwater
and salting my bread with tears
and sharpening my broken bones
for when I may have to fight you.
For all you people’s
talk of living the life
of a man who’s been saved by sacrifice
you all feel so content to kill others with your tongue.
So I’d rather be sacrificed,
or be Jesus with his cat-o’-nine-tails
before Jesus with his blood, or - forbid - his nails,
than ever have a taste of you
upon my lips.
Saying so, I hear,
makes me pretentious.
Then I’d rather be cardboard in the vanguard
than real meat in the gutter -
I’d rather they frown
and cast me out
and I know I’d still stand up between
them and the guns you have made of your politics
than ever just
buy a uniform for you
and fall in.
It just isn’t in my size;
all the grotesque parts of me
have been cut off,
I am just too slim,
I cannot wear your ideas.