Flood

Originally posted 12/05/2008.  
Title poem from my Pudding House Publications chapbook (2009), now out of print.  
I rarely revise published work, but this seemed to ask for it.

i open every night with a prayer: 
sleep, come sooner than the flood.

then comes the flood
and the faces rising to the top:

julie’s blonde hair floating out.
paul robichaux’s rockabilly daring submerged in white.
grandmother’s dear severe wrinkles.
grandfather’s mean low brow.
eddie with his broken head still full of tar.
blue glaze of paul gentile holding a gun up to a temple.

my own head,
my own hands on my own ears.

palaces built of centipedes.
sharp stones set like crystals into 
the back of a baby.

in europe they have gargoyles for moments like this.
in bali there are chants for moments like this.
in new england we simply do not admit to moments like this.
when they come we keep them under our scalps.

still, the lifting faces.

george and jerry barone
rising from the shell of their Volkswagen.
wayne king never knew me
but i knew him.
he was everywhere after he died
and now he’s here again. 
that man died surprised
that he was the only one who did.

in the corner
my hands fling my head to the cement mouth first.
i spit a tooth out
and it lands and grows into the next piece of me to be terrified.

the myth of the hydra explains everything:
a horror killed begets more horror.

still, those lifting faces:

stricky the flying head,
veech the forlorn missile,
carole the rolling bag of bones,
jacob the ghost before he even passed,
martin the bisected prince of the railroad track.

all their sleep has lasted to this day,
and i am still awake.

those lifting faces. 
that’s me in the center,
my eyes shut, squeezed tight,
knowing what is coming.

some sounds will not go away:

a woman’s voice saying 
slink, dove, scrap, green face, sun on a gourd,
crumbs on a dragon, coupons, carver, slide, rumble, escapement,
clipping, stolen, pulse, penlight, painting, bands,
pickup, relate, lard,
gungrease, quillon,
medallion…

then, words appear that mean themselves and no other thing: 
unspecific twoolyala,
skevot,
abbredient briest..
.

it may be my job to translate them.

no word should be without meaning.
deny that and the clock stops.

when those faces float up to see me
i pretend to understand heaven and hell,
perhaps even purgatory.
buying my peace from my parent’s store.

they never quite break the surface.
they do not speak.

i sink myself in the shallows
of the clouded pool.

sleep, come sooner than the flood.

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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