Brandon Brown





THE COUGAR


Sara saw a cougar.
It was terrific.
I swam with dolphins
and rode a wave
blazed on late morning
passionfruit gummy.
John had a frozen vodka
strawberry daiquiri
in the park with Eddie
“a new first.”
But Sara—oh my fucking
god Sara saw a cougar!





ANTIFASCIST FINISHING SCHOOL


Brandon called. My phone
lit up. I picked it up, why
not? We hadn’t talked
in twelve years, so what.
We just picked up where
we left off. It was the first
day of the fires. He called
to ask if I would serve
on the board of the ad hoc
group he had formed
to film a ballet written
by him and scored.
A take-off on the Circe
scene in the Odyssey.
You remember. Odysseus
fucks a lot. Set in the
contemporary Aegean.
Oh of course I said.
A little later he said
something great. Of
course he did, he always
has, since we met as
teenage punks with
the same name. We
recalled a night that
Nazis crashed a show
of his and got the boot
and how for a long
time we didn’t see so
many Nazis but now
and Brandon said
yeah I doubt Greg
(who owned the
club) thought he was
running an antifascist
finishing school and
I thought about that
phrase for weeks, when
Nazis were getting a
few boots and also not
getting them and I looked
up “finishing school”
ugh and I thought
actually I learned
pretty early how to
find a family, pretty
lucky, for that one then
and this one now which
is everywhere like I am
thinking of the night
Alli and I got up at
two a.m. to read in
Sydney with Astrid,
Brooks, and Elena and
the stupid obvious way
we loved each other
to tears across the world
and at Club Confetti
and Pre-Platonics with Lyn
and hollering over drinks
with Ari in the yard
then Alli and I adopted
a cat and called it
Pasta. A magnificent
man! And it turns out
I was still in a finishing
school and all my friends
were there but also
not. Several times I cried
myself to snot. But the
weed was legal and
the calls were good
except when they were
not. But like the stick
my brilliant friend
chucked into that old
green ravine, I’ve got
loft. Air in my shoes
okay? Sometimes
I’m so high I float.







THINGS I LEARNED THIS YEAR
for and after Lewis Warsh


what an ostler is

sloth is a form of love

the human face, being starlight, was designed to reflect starlight

two things at least can travel the width of the country: wood smoke and the pain of my friends

what lacustrine means

and as Sean wrote, “we are a blister on the law”

a neurotic sucker gambler really wants to lose

Liam is good

when you have diarrhea, the Lyft takes longer to arrive, no, longer than that

my preference is for pasta made with durum wheat and water

Zack is a coward

art fairs are horrible

that Joseph once rushed for 265 yards in a high school football game

the Sirens’ song was just knowledge

what it’s like to go to work when there’s a global pandemic

how to do a performance review on Zoom

how to do burpees

how to subsist with constant low-level panic at all times

how to see a friend and not touch them

that a dog pool is ridiculous but brings relief when it’s hot

there was sickness and death and then a roaring twenties

surgeons used to brawl for bodies underneath the gallows

how to roll out pasta on a board

we want to see Tom Hanks suffer

Shaq was magnificent

that there is bad solidarity, bad planning, bad logistics

that the ring trail on Mt. Tam opens three vistas onto the Bay

pickled watermelon rinds are wonderful

our neighbors’ names

how it feels to lie in a pool on MDMA all day during a global pandemic

that we always needed a cat

that “plankton” is a cognate of “flay”

John’s generosity practically mannerist

the paintings of Piero de Cosimo are tight

that all the deaths and violence feel abstract until they don’t

trying to talk to your dad the night after his wife dies is difficult

that there really is a thing called courage

Jamal Murray is amazing

jumping into the pool naked after workout is right

hawks eat pigeons in Washington Square Park

Tik Tok witches hexed the moon

and that I really don’t know how to cook rice

and a fuck rug feels good on the foot

how it feels to watch the Finals during a global pandemic

to already tire of writing the words ‘global pandemic’

how it feels to desperately miss flirting, to text with Diana and Shiv to say so

Sara jumped over an abyss with a broken wrist

Dana’s weed dealer is named “Timmy Biscuits”

that the day without sunlight will be the worst one so far

a kitten will eat until it bursts

fermented onions are good in a galette

Bunny Spurlock is an outstanding name

rollerblades are having a renaissance

Iago was 28

how it feels to hot tub on Thanksgiving

that it’s better to make up at least one song every day and sing it to Alli and Pasta

that “Let’s Get It On” sounds really good loud

Ari dated Chloe Feinman

time moves fast during a global pandemic

some cats like the sink, the shower, the rain

I’ll never be the same again

Neil Diamond wrote “Red Red Wine”







A DAY AT THE GETTY


High up in LA air
so high it’s where
Lebron lives—Lebron!
right over there!

Ruins tourists of the
future will know this
place by its bad
ghosts. The Gettys
were and are fucking

scum. Meanwhile,
in the summer of 1880
Edouard Manet was
focused intensely on plums.







THINGS TO DO IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT


Sleep. Dream. Wake up. Make a bunch of moans and noises, go back to sleep. Toss and turn.
Stay up all night watching Yao Ming highlights videos while your lover sleeps. Have sex with
your lover. Have sex with Yao Ming, if everyone involved is into that.  Stay up all night
drinking caffeine. Stay up talking with your friends. Stay up all night writing poems. Go to
sleep. Lay in bed stressed out about the tax bill, student loans, capitalism, structural racism,
structural misogyny and transphobia, the dim prospect of coming revolution, the fact that you
don’t speak Spanish or Chinese or Icelandic if you don’t, what do your friends say behind your
back, what do the people you love most really think about you, was your fennel gratin good or
were people being polite, class war. Stress about your career stalled or at a dead end, your last
ten poems being garbage, fifteen years of smoking cigarettes, what is that dull pressure in your
chest and how long do you have to live and you haven’t read Proust and ABBA is never going
to reunite and stress out about what’s that noise in the backyard was that an animal? And what
was that? And that? Get up and check the lock on the back door and the front door, peer out
into the darkness and try to see something moving, it’s nothing, you’re fine, go back to bed. Get
up from bed and pee. Get up from bed and shit. Get up from bed and get a glass of water. Drink
it. Stop stressing out about what you said at a party in 2008, what you did in first grade, what
you failed to achieve in college. You didn’t go to Yale, you went to community college in
Delaware but who cares, try to go back to sleep. Take a certain number of deep breaths.Talk to
Insomnobot 3000. Count sheep. Take mugwort, melatonin, Ambien. Take sleeping pills and
sleep. Wake up and record your dreams on your phone. Masturbate. Go out and walk around
your neighborhood and feed the hungry dogs who live on the sidewalks. Go outside and look
at the stars. Skype with someone waking up in Turkey. Listen to ABBA. Pretend you live in the
Middle Ages in Europe and do that “two sleep” thing where you sleep for a couple of hours,
then get up for a couple of hours and then go back to sleep for a couple of hours. Don’t sleep.
Yao Ming scored 41 points against the Hawks on February 22, 2004. Think about your crush and
what they’re doing in the middle of the night. Do the Leonardo da Vinci thing where you sleep
15 minutes every four hours. But actually don’t do this. Get sleep. Close your eyes and count
backwards from 100. Fall asleep. Meet celebrities and dead relatives and friends in your dreams.
Say hello. Remember. Hello.



Poet Brandon Brown, based in California, is the author of five collections and chapbooks, which include Flowering Mall (2012), Top 40 (2014), Four Seasons (2018) and Work (2020). He is also the editor of several zines and currently edits Panda’s Friend.

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