The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

All Issues
FEB 2017 Issue



Father cried
Only once
When Mother, half-dead, mouthed
I love you

From her bed
Brown and mossy, something
Brown and mossy also at the window

The moon
Divided by a poppy

Missionaries mating with cattle hearts

Bowels as lightsome
Children are fungus


Window is becoming love


Men weep bubbles into their knees
But only children see bubbles
Chastising men
With phlegm and tenderness










Men appear to be made of cardboard
Boys appear to be made of men
Appearing to be made of cardboard


Men appear to boys
In the form of sons


Cling to one another while
Inextricable organs fight
Angelic solicitations
To water parties

Boys who drink sodas with one face
Eat breadfruits with one foot
Groom each other with one tooth
Body’s grudging love makes fast

Slide their hand all over each other
Sit in each other’s lap, hang their chin
Over each shoulder, never has there been such
Tender touching of an elbow










I like under-ordinary men
With long, fibrous hairs
Growing from brown moles
On abbreviated chins, some say

Long, fibrous hairs
Growing from brown moles
On abbreviated chins
Are a sign of wisdom, but

Is extra-ordinary
And a sign is not a show
But relief from actuality

Neither actual sign nor show nor actual wisdom
The retention of one’s dreams
In the extra-ordinary growth of physical properties
Including but not limited to

The hairs on one’s face
If the face is wise
Remain invisible, simultaneously
The living force of genius

Not the monument. The monument
Does not perpetuate. Life turns living force into
A handsome yet sterile survivor


If the long, fibrous hairs are supra-wisdom
What’s the system?
Or washed away

I watch men watching me, red with betel cheeks


Gangs of gaseous spheres


When an under-ordinary man looks up
From the tumulus of his head
To see the apparition of a nurse


Narcotized and nocturnal



Under-ordinary man, the longer you let it grow
The wiser die
The ones around you
In perdition

Reflected in the stain, spreading beneath the wandering

Stroke that
Cuts it, keeps it growing










A man with a guitar is speaking to foreigners about America
I love America, the man says
I love America, the man says
Again. He is not speaking of a place
He calls America
But of a feeling he has
He calls America, the love he has
For the feeling

A guitar slung over his shoulder

Tender entertainment
Of a psychic

Foreigners are Americans, love
When the guitar is taken off
To be played, or pretending
The guitar is no longer being taken
Off, is being played. Americans love
To be the ambition
Of a song
Where it can be a feeling
And feelingly pretend
To be listening

To English
Sepulchral humor


No matter how

The man flung himself, he was
The burden of his flight
So hardened to the homeliness of
His instrument


He felt one

String coming off, yet
Rather than undoing


To be the sound
Of the nation
He does not trust

When he forgets that
He is home

The guitar is taken off


Every time the man starts speaking










Men, imitation men
Drink Taiwan and Bar
Through plastic straws

Their feet are bound, penetrated
By nearly imperceptible fish


For characteristic men
Rarely speak, entrust
Those whom
They neglect

With what
They have to say
Nothing, more or less
To them, anyone

Round and buff, gathered
About their heads fall
Forward speechless into
The harbor










Women in boats are full
Of constitutional life, they move
Like there will be a horse


Drag their children off

Into the bloomless hills
Luscious, hard

To tell how old
The women are
The same age as women


Only daughters
Coaching woman from a pattern
Misrepresenting mothers
Becoming-intransigent daughters


Mother raises above the neck
Emulsions of both sexes










Dragon fruit
Cut open makes
A bath
In what bleeds out

Whisk with what



When cut open
A confrontation with

The developing embryo
Every life
A progressive masterpiece


Is edible
And can be defecated
With masterful discretion
To continue

The transition from
One expectation to
Another more
Ostentatious and

To be, to travel
Live, to be
Inside indigestion

Is creation, strangers’ bodies
And faces make me think
Whichever strangers I am with
Will be crushed

Into my body and face
My body and face into theirs
Best I know them now
And be prepared










Who is the person?
The one who suffers and
The ageless, anchoress, poet
Compassion is

When not encasing an organism
In the primary function
Of seeing its death

Clearly, the earnest
Ministry of minutes
Ticking closer to the heart

The heart hangs from
The ass, obliterated
With the mass of
Haloed organs

Anything short
Of eating one
Another is the squandering


Poets of suffering, versus
Suffering makes everyone adolescent

Less than wakeful
In the attitude of wakefulness
The outside of one’s enigma
Asked for by the powers

Like when my friend Leah saw me
Looking especially exhausted, she said
If you are very tired, you
Become literature










Elaine is in ninth grade. She is afraid of going bald
But has more hair than all her classmates   LIGHTNING IS
WHITE SWORDS, she says   that
Men are good at
Cutting things to the ground
While half of what they cut
Remains above  
The ground, and grows
An ogre   To be different, men
Remove more and more of everything, until
There is nothing left
But women










One thousand


Upon a mountain, facing the ocean
Inhuman therefore

One thousand bodhisattvas, gold
And green, rotund
Red faces with long black hair


Beards blowing against
Pink faces, exquisite
Bouffant yellow faces
Obese and melting


Will marry god
In a robe, contoured
With shadows becoming a hole

The secret pride
The peasantry’s










Two million, eight hundred thousand people
Wearing t-shirts
Doing calisthenics in the park
Beating upon their asses with their fists

Old women hip-hop dancing in matching tracksuits
Old men waltzing, tiny boom box
Young men hip-hop dancing
In front of mirrors, by escalators


Old men and women slow dancing
Do not make summer, during estrus

Each right hand raised mid-chest palm out
Each left held out mid-waist fingers down


A necklace filled with gasoline, a synthesis worn
To be removed, and when
Removed, the flesh in place
Is always sudden










Are you an author? I am a writer
Do you write about Taiwan? I have never written about Taiwan
Do you write the same things? The same things as what?
The same things all the time?

What do you do in Taiwan? I teach writing to children
Do you think I could also teach writing to children? I don’t know
What it is you do. Do you
Teach writing to children? I could teach writing to children

If all else fails
All else will likely fail


When I ask the children what they enjoy
The children always say the same thing: Sleep!
To which I say, you should try writing in your sleep!
As long as you are writing, it is okay
To fall asleep, just keep your hand on the instrument!










Some part of me is part of the poet
Who walked with a rock into the river
Everyone tried to keep the fish from eating the poet
By throwing rice into the water

The fish redoubled. They owned the river (as humans think)
The poet’s body was found twenty days later
Weighed down with rocks
On the bed


Some fish ate some part of each poet
Gone down
Into the part of the fish
That forms

An egg. Everyone ate it






Brandon Shimoda

Brandon Shimoda’s recent books include The Desert (poetry and prose; The Song Cave), Dept. of Posthumous Letters (drawings; text by Dot Devota and Caitie Moore; Argos Books), and The Grave on the Wall (an ancestral memoir, forthcoming from City Lights).


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

All Issues