Grandfather Watching Planet of the Apes
Space makes a man lonely, Charlton Heston
told me this, hours past midnight. Then I remembered
my grandfather loved this man. He could
watch Heston crash-land into lakes all day,
pausing and shaking his fist at the nomads who stole
his clothes. That year he bought me a membership
to the junior RNA. I liked to shoot birds and cans.
I learned animals were machines for making meat.
My grandfather loved America, penicillin,
the man on the moon, and the production of heat
only visible as steam inside a crane’s soiled, cold cab.
He knew man makes a desert by in putting green paradise
and too much time. He taught me to make paper airplanes,
mentioning Bernoulli’s principle of lift. His blood
pressure rose. He watched and whished to be Heston,
running off with a girl who couldn’t speak, a gun
and a fresh horse with nowhere to go.
A sink says what it does
when its working. A trapdoor
at the bottom of a pool
answers the question
your searching foot has been
asking. This is a how a banana
peel becomes a murder weapon.
Old men do not cannon ball,
they consult their machines
blinking red light for gravity’s
call and their response in good-
byes ends with the holler for dirt.
The monkey’s not the problem,
I told her. It’s the smoking.
Doesn’t matter what carnival
you’re coming from, Rio’s down
the road, you can smoke there.
She took the cigarette and pulled a trick
most of the boys at the bar had seen
in a book. She blew rings around
the room the rest of the week,
streets went bare as a ghost town.
All the boys at the bar, titling
upward, smoke in their nostrils,
with their heads in the clouds.
When the cyborgs tell
bedtime stories they telescope
into the little one’s earpiece,
set a low tune to turning
slowly between music
box and modem. They speak
in the imitation of a tremble
about the last boy without
enhancement. He was a baby
when the shipwreck happened.
Both parents tried to fly,
swim, signal and each sunk
separately. Startled by the sound
of drones, he always hid
from passing ships. At fifteen
he started working wood and stone.
Later in the moonlight, he listened
to the birds and began tooling
a new language in which the first
word was goodnight.
Loss for Words
When I traveled back in time
to stop myself from uttering
bourgeoisie at the dinner table,
I had to laugh. The word doesn’t
rhyme with family, and that joke
would be lost on them. What business
did that word have inside this walled
city of mark-down-bins, saved soup can
labels, and all the songs that have gone
out of style? So many stereotypes
fit much more snugly: three martyred
mothers, one stock car-racing in-law,
a little thug growing a dirt lip mustache,
and the superior but still broke college boy.
I want to be your ampersand
and pop song-stop-you-in-the-drive-
way-to-listen, kissing you sideways,
recollection man. When that one
Beetles’ track about love
comes on, no matter who you’re with,
you’ll think of me twisting
out of shape to join you in a city
that made a molehill of me.
Let me be your plus one, or even
just the plus. Someone must headline
this show and when the curtain closes
you’ll string me around your finger.
You’ll send me off into the atmosphere
tethered to some point near, but not,
actually your ring finger.
I’ll be the key in this history play,
swinging in the electric storm between the kite
and you dragged out as Benjamin Franklin.
Understanding for Bankers
Security questions asking
the name of your first
girlfriend or boyfriend,
mothers maiden name,
street you grew up on—
this means something
different to the old and lonely,
the doorstep orphans, and boot-
less refugees. U.S. Bank,
don’t you want their money too?
Resist the urge to ask about
the number of cats in your household,
amount of tissue used per week,
height of stacked magazines
delivered discreetly each month.
Seeing All of Rome’s Underworld—
That’s in fact where the wallet was.
The gloved hand of some pickpocket,
brushing back his hair, then slipping
my money places I’d wished to go and see.
But for some things they don’t sell
passports. I keep an eye on backpack,
and ignore the beggars on this railcar.
I’m going home knowing I came close
enough to touch and be touched by a true artist.
There has been a garden
here before. This mossy
place, a palace for shoeless
mothers stepping out of one
overgrowth into another.
Stories come from the rabbit
talking run, chew, thump.
Mother knew what to whisper
into the elephants ear.
Alien in her own region,
here, she taught the roaches,
mealworms, and moths the song
of fishbone plunk. The bulldozer
taught us all supernova.
All of fifth grade was going
overnight to Chicago. I didn’t
think the Field Museum
would be that great: dusty
bones of dinosaurs, the rotten eggs
smell around a sarcophagus, more candy
models of a nucleus. So what.
A tour of Wrigley Field: do they
call it that because of what’s stuck
under each seat? The Shedd is nothing
much. Just a large aquarium full of ducks,
halibut, and a few sad-looking box turtles.
Its destitute compared to Sea World.
And besides the bus rides with Mrs. Hettinger
singing and making us sing Frere Jacques.
I though all this and shook my little fist,
destitute. Me and three other slow learners
sitting with the substitute. We didn’t earn
the right go because of an F or a couple of Ds.
We prayed for someone to get sick
on the bus and for the driver to have
run out of sawdust.
In the Cards
Playing the three-card
Monty and hoping
happiness hides in the crease
of one of those folded hearts
or around the blistering
cigarette burn on a spade.
I’ll get my money by Monday
and get on with the getting gone.
Jason Lee Braun is a man of many talents and he’s always up to something new. (He was one of the main creative forces behind our new website and the new cover.) He hosts Literature for the Halibut, a weekly hour-long literary program on KDHX 88.1. He writes fiction and poetry. He releases music under the moniker “Jason and The Beast.”
This month, Jason released his most recent projectMade This For You: The Mix Tape as Literature – which is weird and wonderful and one-of-a-kind. Consider yourself strongly urged to check it out.
Furthermore, yesterday he guest-posted on Jane Friedman’s blog: “If the Book is Dead, Then Why Buy a Zombie?”
From a blog post I did for Jane Friedman:
A year has passed since Jane Friedman’s 2011 AWP panel, “The Future of Authorship and Publishing in a Transmedia World,” and I’m still sorting through the fallout.
I went to the panel with my friend Jamey Bradbury, a fine fiction writer, who happened to be John Irving’s research assistant. Jamey wanted to learn more about e-books. I wanted to see how music might fit into the future of literature. We were immediately thrust into a much larger dialogue.
It was science fiction writer William Gibson who said, “The Future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.” But it is Jane Friedman who is trying to help us all with distribution. Just five minutes into the show, the panelists were tossing questions like Molotov cocktails:
Click the link to read more.
“Jason and the Beast have one goal, to prove that hip-hop is poetry. With an impressive collective of musicians behind him, the titular Jason employs a man vs. self approach that evokes not only Shakespeare but Sage Francis and Saul Williams.” Bryan J. Sutter, Playback STL