July 4th in Gethsemane


 
Through a rust-chewed hole in the carport roof,
sunlight makes even an oil slick appear worthy of praise.
A septic tank sleeps under the shade of the only tree
in the yard like a tractor being eaten by weeds.
Picking at the meat of a split pecan,
you think you have found the answer to the only question
a twelve-year-old in Choctaw could possibly carry:
How can I stay in this green world forever?
See how tender your heart is––it snaps the belt and whips itself.
Beyond his squinted eye, your brother has done the impossible:
made a single pellet ricochet off a coffee can
full of rusty screws and bite out a piece of your elbow.
He jerks up his sleeve and presents the thickest part of his shoulder,
an offering for not ratting him out, pulls an M-80 out of his pocket
and holds it in his fingers like a vial of blood.
There you are, swinging and swiping his most precious token.
With the gun leaned against particle board,
the two of you bury the bomb in the chest of a bug-chewed tomato,
imagine blasting a crater big enough to sleep in.
But the wound is a dusty red disappointment,
oozing and raw on the plot where your grandfather
paid the neighbor to put a bullet in the head of the family hog.
A bald patch beside the pump shed chokes in silence,
tarp-worn to the soil. Deer are strung up there in season
and stripped of their skin. One night, after supper,
you walked out beyond the comforting hymn of the porchlight
to find the white cat with a withered back foot snakebit and seizing.
Now strawberries run across the face of the earth like drops of blood.
 
 
 

Brandon Jordan Brown is a 2014 PEN America 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 appeared or is forthcoming in Grist; Winter Tangerine Review; Scalawag; Forklift, Ohio; Birmingham Poetry Review; Radar Poetry and elsewhere. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Brandon currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Find him on Twitter @brownbrandonj or at brandonjordanbrown.com