Poor Claudia published poetry, prose and conversations online and in print from 2009 to 2018.

Brandon Brown

Last Words of Gerard Manley Hopkins

    One differénce between

    delight and headphones

    is that you can’t leave

    delight at Laura’s

    after a debauch

    and have to walk

    around for weeks

    having to be your

    own supplement

    to life. An adequate

    singer, I missed

    them so much,

    never more aware

    that I gesso the real

    with the supple smarts

    melody is. And I forgot

    them there like

    fizz forgot what

    bubbles in it.

    I never “forget”

    to buy cigarettes.

    They are the pastured

    catalyst for smoldered

    iterations of delight,

    searing the easy

    paths of breath.

    Stirring cells to

    reproduce themselves

    without the thought

    of death. These

    guarantors of

    a future so bereft

    of delight, overdark

    I know. I love them.

    My quit date is November 5th.

    Anyway, maybe there

    will be resurrection.

    Diamond immortality.

    Like music blinks

    blank but is coaxed

    back into light by

    a thin white cord.

    I come out of dirt

    in a thin white

    shroud, my sisters

    pissed. They remember

    prick Brandon, not

    the one who helped

    a rascal bandit

    better. Recently I got

    mugged and the

    guy, taking my

    headphones in his hands

    like someone else’s

    toddler, asked how it

    worked. What could I

    do? I showed him, singing

    their praises and grieving

    the sorry lot of whatever

    chump let them get away.

    Now they were really lost

    last breath condensing

    window cirrus puff

    into greedy circus, ugh

    my walking firecracker

    fused to quick shoots,

    dissolute, scrapped

    papper wrapping.

    But really, don’t

    put me in the

    ground. I want my

    body to flare, flame

    usufruct, sugar

    crust, steam into

    stratospheric cloud,

    like the collective

    puff of a city’s smokers,

    the happiest people

    on earth. Mine wasn’t

    the most beautiful

    of bodies, but I sunk

    it in several depths,

    wet, whelping

    in brisk measures

    of water. Used

    it to lick and whirl

    a little. Dressed it

    well or pretty well

    from 2005 to the present

    day, still no

    vanity for its

    perseverance. Light

    torch, blow, blaze

    my bones. Smoke

    the ash if you want,

    like Meth and Red

    in How High, fine.

    I wanted to write

    a poem as good

    as that one do

    you know it?

    Two graces

    condescended from

    the Milky Way

    and landed in

    a Stockholm recording

    studio. The song’s

    great triumph is

    to conflate two



    thoughts, “I love

    it” and “I don’t care.”

    My wanting to match its

    glory is classic

    hubris, not invidious

    jealous rather, my daily

    sin, swelled crumb

    building Babel,

    writing giants suck

    on the inner thighs

    of a giant! But if

    I have learned

    anything from the

    study of classical

    literature, it’s that

    the sun is fucking

    hot and it will

    melt your wax

    outfit. That,

    and never challenge

    the gods to a

    poetry contest.

    You will always

    lose and then some.

    But there I was,

    clear loser looking

    up into pink,

    punked longing

    to stroll into

    the wild strawberry

    cloud containment

    system. It’s such a

    USAmerican thing

    to do, am I right?

    To stand there, white

    and deformed,

    green from eating

    cash like the sky

    is pink from

    industry or a salmon

    is pink from eating

    shrimp. I was

    in California, I mean

    straddling a grave.


    by saline pools, paddling

    after margaritas, but

    I wanted even more,

    deathless condo

    in the sky. To live

    among the echelons of

    timeless singers

    like, oh right, Gerard

    Manley Hopkins.

    I guess he gladly

    quit the earth

    whupped by its

    wickeds, by haters

    of measure in great

    numbers, measure-

    haters beloved

    of states

    then and now.

    I love it when

    people are like

    “that’s it, I’m

    moving to

    Canada” after

    a judicial outrage

    or disappointing

    election. As if it’s

    any better there.

    As if it matters

    which king or king’s

    kin eases on

    alabastér bed

    in the Lincoln

    bedroom. It might

    be a little better

    in Canada, actually.

    But it is not better

    than this orchestrated

    world, bright lodge

    between the veiled

    headphones and

    the tiny bones

    in my innerest

    ear. My singers are

    there. They love it.

    They don’t care.

    I love it, and trying

    not to care

    still I overflow

    with it. Milkshake

    over the lips

    of my rims and

    all over your plaints.

    That’s the USA too,

    growing enough grain

    to feed every starving

    person on the earth

    and dumping most

    of it in the sea

    like some return

    of a repressed Boston

    Tea Party moment,

    and just as spectacular

    in a way, the tactics

    by which our flourishing

    is disappeared.

    BART was on strike.

    The surrogate bus

    squeezed too many

    souls in its hull,

    sweat over bridge

    in traffic jam. Some dude

    three inches from

    the bridge of my

    nose spat impoverishmént

    of solidarity.

    I wished

    his mouth shriveled


    part of his palate pinched

    wrinkled, hard, stone

    shut. I distracted

    myself with the thought

    of ancient Sumer,

    how bad a BART

    strike would have

    been for them, how

    little of their once-

    great civilization

    remains. How little

    BART is finally,

    although I pine for it,

    baleful. Don’t think

    I wasn’t mortified

    by this very late

    colonial Indiana Jones

    fantasy I was having

    about Sumerians

    and their transit

    systems. I was.

    But that was

    the same fantasy

    animated my



    crystal, amulets

    against all that

    decays. Revelations,

    better than that,


    What do you

    think they’re doing

    in heaven today?

    What do you think

    it’s like there? Is it like

    a croissant tunic,

    flaking to the shape

    of your chest. Your

    very beautiful

    chest, paradise for

    nose and cheeks.

    Like here but

    better, I guess.

    Here on earth,

    or in Oakland,

    a guy follows three

    feet behind me

    all the way

    to the train, one

    hand in his pocket

    the whole time.

    Chevron stock

    is up. A garbage

    truck reeks by

    and dumps

    garbage on me

    and my friends.

    And we love

    it, we don’t care.

    But I did have

    a vision of the after

    life that wasn’t up

    or down. It wasn’t

    inside anything or

    painted on a building.

    There weren’t even

    fists, just hands

    holding tightly

    together. It was

    a hall of singers

    and you were there

    and you were there

    and you were there

    and Tupac, and

    Emily Dickinson and Walt

    Whitman were there

    puffing on a spliff,

    in a big ass

    bathtub. The foliage

    grazing their naked

    chests vaguely

    Californian. I guess

    it was a dream

    of song flying

    so well that even

    the sun chilled

    out. Wax congealing

    all over the bed,

    the couch, the kitchen

    floor. Wherever it spilled,

    that’s where I went.

    I loved it. I didn’t care.

    What I do

    is continue

    until my cheeks blue,

    blister, wear out

    from constant play. A little

    longer please on

    blue orb, baby

    squeeze clit,

    quit smoking,

    slurred Givenchy

    sweater glamourous

    swift smoke from the pyre

    which cools to resemble

    a freaky davenport

    Sumer-old, summer-

    tight. Immortal

    diamond la. La,

    unbuckling like

    a bunch of bricks

    when the big one hits.

    Oh yeah, the last

    words of Gerard Manley

    Hopkins. Chris told

    me out front of the

    July 4th barbecue

    where we stood

    smoking, huddling

    over little rapid

    death drive delivery

    systems. I figured

    they would be wild

    and hard, compressed

    by consonantal

    pressure, sprung

    from drained lips,

    gloaming, opulent

    from a life of

    never smoking

    constant prayer.

    Instead he goes

    grossly, grisly

    gunk on the shoes

    him hacking up

    carburetor crap

    yuck, I will never

    drive except in

    nightmares where

    I race against

    Adderall traffic

    intent, wrong-wayéd


    later I wake up,

    feel around for

    headphones. Sumerian

    ratchet jams.

    Everybody has

    last words, literally.

    Mostly they’re traces

    on crystal at best

    epics on sand

    sometimes they

    purr on headphones.

    Chris told me,

    eyes gleaming

    like nó fíre

    wórk éver

    Gerard Manley

    breath barely

    there died

    and said “I’m

    so happy.

    I’m so

    happy. I’m so


    Brandon Brown

    Brandon Brown is the author of The Persians By Aeschylus, The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, and Flowering Mall. In 2012, his debut play Charles Baudelaire the Vampire Slayer was staged at Small Press Traffic’s Poet’s Theater. He publishes small press materials under the imprint OMG! and lives in Oakland.