Falsehood

We move through so much of life without a witness, I want Emily Brandt to be mine. Falsehood is a collection of everyday interactions and not normal situations that the world likes to call normal. And just when I thought no one was paying attention, here comes Brandt, she’s been absorbing and collecting the unacceptable norms built by the patriarchy all along. The result is Falsehood, a fierce translation and actualization of so many moments we assumed we were alone with. Brandt’s poetry is like a feminist sleeper cell, easing us out of isolation for a laugh before continuing our lifetime sentence of talk therapy and EMDR. Thank the goddess and the witness! —Sini Anderson, Director of The Punk Singer

The Galley Bitch

Wake at 4 to be on time for my first job cutting
squid on the St. Anthony. The gulls in Captree State Park

are furious for fish and gas sheens the surface.
I am inspired by what’s happening. Captain Bill

tells me I'll be pretty when I grow boobs
and hands me an ice-pick. The block of ice weighs

twenty pounds. I'll inspire my people too, show them
how to pull the spines from squid while smoking.

The mates already know this trick. They fidget
in the cabin with coffee and cards, wait for fish.

There's not any question about girls
being strong, about the open bay, about survival

at stake. I'd love to make some food for pay
but here everything’s frozen, everyone drunk.

I hate one mate so I ash his burger. I fall
asleep in the galley and wake:

a blowfish bloats my pocket. I take his revenge lesson with me.

Girl claims her manhood

My three sisters shared the same walls
the same womb, the same wagon

swaying between screams: Walkman. Walkman.
Walkman. Fourth Walkman. Packed
extra batteries thank god, take me home.

I learned to use a blinker, to tailgate,
how to wipe the windshield, smoke out the window,
how to lock doors, how to open.

Purposeful at midnight. A round of shots before vomiting
into a hat took from someone’s head, a stranger,
a bloodpunch and a phonecall, a door
and a quarter tank of gas.

This forged note to the nurse. Swollen
cheeks look like penance, but they’re a concoction.
There are books about it, an encyclopedia. We ate
honeysuckles after the planes
flew by and sprayed.

I stuffed my bra with socks

I say I want to be her but I know
I want to touch her.

I make myself
a mannequin.

The bee's stinger weaves
through blonde hair, traces map lines:

the way to the trail in the woods where the reeds
went up in flame, and to all the neighborhood pools,

which water is warmest
and which will sting your eyes.

Lunchtime conversation

Put the timer on for thirty minutes
and let’s talk about something else.
The way the keys sound when you press them

but the strings are cut. Pulling
a clump of grass from the yard.
Don’t pull the grass, Dad will yell.

I jumped off the top of the station wagon
and landed in the present moment.
Astrologically I shouldn’t be here.

I should be in a different house with
a different sign. The old astronomers drew
the finest maps that were incorrect at a time

when people killed for ideas, which is now,
I folded a piece of paper over a comb
to make music and it worked. I froze a thread to

a cube of ice and it worked. I tried out math tricks
and they worked. I shoplifted and my skin worked.
I peeled open an orange and the smell came out. I flipped

over the handlebars, got strips of red roadburn
under my breasts and thought I would turn into a boy
and I did. It was easy. Any shirt would hurt

because of systemic friction. Like a tattoo coming off
over years. Every time your skin hits the surface
of the pool, there is rubbing. There are replacements

for what comes off skin but not for skin
itself, undervalued as the largest organ
despite common knowledge of the fact.

Moving the body is one nice thing about life. It’s alarming
how skin separates you from the organs around you.
When I bake bread, the particles all stay in the pan

or so it looks, and so I believe. I simplified an equation
and it worked for a while. The first thought is not always
best, especially at a time when we are dying for thought.

There are different ways of liking football. You who like football
are extremely smart. Either way, it’s nice to watch bodies move,
watch them work, and work ourselves sometimes too.

I have tried to like all bodies and failed. I favor the shape
of the bruise. Let’s go back to talking work.
Let’s talk the work that keeps the bread inside the pan.
Let’s talk the work that keeps all those particles in their pan.

I want to be the kind of man who smokes

with fingers like forktines stabbing at geodes, fruitless.
Down in the valley of discontent, a man

clubs his ball in the hole. A man kicks his ball
in the goal. A man throws his ball in the net.

Slow down the shock so it sounds
like lightning, a wheezing kettle, space heat.

A man runs his ball across the line hits out of the park.
A man bones his ball into the sun and it explodes

in an ecstasy of light. Two men volley
a ball back and forth, a midwinter tale. One man

victorious wears an item on his head, perhaps
a symbol, perhaps for smoke, for mineral light. The caves

are darker than ever before. Luminosity
is fruitless with all these fingers stabbing blindly

at anything dark, anything female. One no longer makes
paint from ground mineral, but buys. He pays cash and pours

the single color over the whole damn town. There is money
to be made, and lack-valleys full of pitch and holes.

How to

The only way left for a girl to be radical in America
is to camp in the woods for decades until she is ready to die

then build her own funeral pyre
surrounded by stones and light it well.

You are the genius of the ash heap and everyone
else in the woods, all of the scavengers, will mourn.