Two poems: "Satan" and "Leaving & Cleaving"



Satan, you tear-filled jamboree,

     I can’t help but see you everywhere.

          Every movie is a movie about Satan.

Even the one where a blind man in overalls sees

     the world through his only unbroken banjo string.

          Satan sits on a throne of film canisters and cries.


                The sun has a particular way of cutting

          through the blinds and lighting up

     the cat’s spine. That sunlight is all Satan.

                And so I must make peace with two hells cooking me

          at once: the hell below me and the one above

      this ball of light and its army of swirling moons. Now I hate birds.


          I got dizzy at breakfast when I thought too hard

      about the defiance of my stovetop. How the tiny buds of flame

flicker like spurts of lust,

          a dance that pleases Satan. My wife,

      I love her to death, and that’s just what Satan wants.

So I am beginning to deprive her of even common courtesy.


The little girl with bottle-rotted teeth who lived just up the street

     from the Dollar General got her head chewed up by a big old Chow.

          Its gray tongue a half-pound steak of evil.

There used to be a fawn the next town over

     that would hop up to the barb wire fence and suck on your pinky.

          Satan must love animals, too.


              Years ago, a grip of people left my uncle’s church

        when a black man and white woman decided

    they wanted to get married. Their neighbors were convinced

            God ain’t in that, so I suppose their new home

        was seeped through with Satan. Just take a crowbar to the wall

    and you’d let him into your lungs like wiry threads of asbestos.


    In fact, I dare you to do it. Unless you’re too Satan, that is.

        Somebody did break in once, and took their most

            expensive things. They found it all later at the pawn shop.

    The owner with half a front tooth was compelled

        by Satan to give it back. Wasn’t much. A few rings.

            A record player with a bent needle. A VCR.


Each time the woman went to the grocery store, everyone

    saw her with a buggy piled up full of Satan. She’d drive

        her Civic home and cook her man up a pot

full of hot Satan. He’d eat it by the bowlful and kiss her

    neck at the sink, then carry her off to the bedroom

        at the back of the house to do Satan’s work.


            Outside, the moon looks so thin I think

        it is flapping in the breeze, hung up like a chore.

    Except Satan is the clothes and the line. There’s a rumor that tomorrow,

            Satan is going to fill up all the evil cracks

        in the world with red buckets of love.

    What in the devil are we gonna do then?



Leaving & Cleaving


Today I am the         deer’s body

    I am the     ground    under my grandfather’s spade


I am the tree trunk             divided by the fervor

                       of a hatchet                 found in the shed

                                           by a boy   in the heat of July


My father                  

    has a         saying    about leaving and


                                           that it’s what two


                                   do when God brings them together


    I         want    to            find a way   

to be split open             on either side of you


            without feeling like a wound


Brandon Jordan Brown was born in Alabama and raised in the South. He is a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, winner of the 2016 Orison Anthology Poetry Prize, a scholarship recipient from The Sun and a former PEN in the Community poetry instructor. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Forklift, Ohio; Day One; Winter Tangerine Review; Bodega and elsewhere. Brandon currently lives in Los Angeles.