"But first, baby, as you climb and count the stairs (and they total the same), did you, sometime or somewhere, have a different idea?
Is this, baby, what you were born to feel, and do, and be?"

-Kenneth Fearing

Tuesday, December 21, 2010



A child would grow up different

here, in the dust and sagebrush,

under a sky that remembers .

the void before the world

Here, he would learn to fill the space,

construct his own linked scarecrows

and send water through their metal arms

so the grass seeds could take root .

He would learn to become the emptiness

to live in the spaces where nothing thrives.

He would take in dust like water,

his eyes fixed on something shining, far away.

                                  -Brent Allard

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Huddled Masses


“ I’m gonna open a restaurant” said 1512.

3590 humored him. 1512 always had some fantastic story to tell, and 3590 didn’t have the heart to discourage him.

“ Oh yeah, what kind of restaurant?” he asked.

“ Oh I don’t know. Like a place where you could go and eat at any time of day. All my employees would be friendly, even if you didn’t have the right voucher. You know? a place where you could just eat.”

“Yeah sounds good, and where is this restaurant going to be?”

“I don’t know yet, somewhere far away.”

“Yeah, pretty far I guess, nowhere I’ve ever heard of.”

Lloyd clipped towards them, face steeled into law mode. He could look quite severe for a man built like a scarecrow.

“How many times, do I have to tell you? Talking time is five minutes, not five and a half. Next time I’m turning you both out of here.”

Lloyd rubbed the gold circle pinned to his shirt and leered at the two figures towering over him.

1512 and 3590 scrambled off in separate directions, slowly in case Lloyd had more to say. Neither was foolish enough to leave a Citizen’s presence before he had finished expressing his thought.

3590 headed east through the compound, pausing to relieve himself at the hallway toilet. Citizens paused on the way past, pointing and laughing at the exhibition. 3590 often wondered what their toilets looked like. He reasoned that they must be somewhat similar, they had the same biology. There was no way to tell. He would never see one, and didn’t want to use his question to answer such trivia.

He remembered when he was small, 3589 had told him that Citizen’s toilets were made of gold. They had their own private rooms too, she had said. She had told him many things, but her stories were no more than fairy tales now, and he did his best not to remember them, but they stuck in his head.
No amount of television could block them all the time.
“Everyone had a name” she had said. And everyone was valued for their work. Anyone could be a Citizen, although there were special ones, who made decisions for the others. “They wore robes.” She had said. “My name was Paula.” she told him, "until names were licensed." She always cried when she reached the names part. 3590 didn’t know why, but her crying had bothered him. There had been a word she used about that time, though he could never quite remember, it was right on the tip of his tongue.

He recalled her eyes welling up as she moaned,

“If only your father had taken that job. Thirty thousand dollars was all we needed. You could have had a name, we could’ve kept ours... only a thousand short... if only he’d taken that job... only a thousand dollars.” Those were the last tears he saw. Here, no one ever cried, as it was strictly forbidden.

3590 lost his balance when a Citizen him nudged him from behind, causing him to spray outside the toilet with urine. When Thomas stopped in the hallway, 3590 realized what had happened. He had been foolish for not being alert in the busy hallway. He could usually handle the shoves without making a mess, but he had been thinking too much, and the push had been harder than usual.

Thomas watched from the end of the hall. Several other citizens had joined him. Four of them stood staring at 3590. Aware of his duty, he pulled off his shirt and began wiping the floor. They laughed and laughed. 3590 laughed too, as the law required. Sufficiently entertained, they dispersed. He tossed the soaked shirt into the metal waste receptacle next to the toilet, and pulled a shirt request ticket from the wall dispenser. He tucked the ticket in his pants pocket, and walked to the end of the wing.

He pushed the doors open and stepped out into winter. Without his shirt, the wind bit deep and he shivered violently until his skin adjusted. He couldn’t afford to wait, not if he wanted to eat on time. If he was late he’d forfeit eating tomorrow. He had learned this the hard way, losing meal privileges for a full week once. He was fortunate that his renewal request form had been granted in time, but didn’t care to try his luck again.

1453 approached on the sidewalk. 3590 extended his palm, indicating that he had already used his talking time. 1453 nodded and walked past. Maybe tomorrow.

He reached the cafeteria doors, and waited for permission to enter, hoping he was on time. The doorman glanced at 3590, then at his watch, before seating himself in a padded chair to read a newspaper. After several minutes, the doorman let him in. 3590 glanced at the doorman, but looked away quickly to avoid an accusation of peeking at the watch. He didn’t understand their concern, as he couldn’t read it.

He approached the counter the proper way, hands at his sides and head slumped down. Clarence, the counter man checked his watch then extended an open hand to 3590, who gave up his meal voucher. The uniformed Citizen examined the paper a moment, crumpled it and threw it away.

“What are you trying to do?” he asked 3590.

3590 maintained appropriate stance.

“If you want to eat you have to come on time. You’re three minutes too late. When are you gonna learn to follow the rules?”

3590 nodded in response to Clarence’s scolding.

“Now get the hell out.”

3590 nodded once more. Satisfied that Clarence was done speaking, he left the cafeteria with head bowed properly. Back on the sidewalk, 3590 cursed himself for being so foolish. He would have to fill out an rationing renewal request form again. He thought of 1776, who had been repeatedly denied renewal until finally collapsing into the street. There wasn’t much left of him after the Citizens’ cars were done grinding him into the tar. 3590 told himself that if he should collapse, he would at least make sure not to fall into the street, as nothing was permitted to interrupt the flow of traffic.

And he thought of 3589 again, he couldn’t lose the memory of her sobbing, “... a thousand dollars short”. 3590 was cold, his skin felt too thin as the wind sent up stinging fragments from the road.

A large hole in the sidewalk caught his left foot, and the leverage of a step in progress pulled him face down into pavement. The raw sensation of bare chest rubbed against cold concrete reminded him of 1776. 3590 felt strange; cold, wet, hungry and overwhelmingly nostalgic, although he didn’t know the word. His eyes were burning and his temples felt as if they were being gripped together. He was crying and it made no sense. The sensation was uncomfortable yet made everything so clear. He knew what his question was, and it was time.

An hour’s trudging through the slush, brought him to his destination; a majestic building of gray stone and glass. The monstrous letters etched above the entrance read, “Superior American District Courthouse”. He had seen the building many times while walking by, and remembered the fear. The unthinkable size, the dark forbidding stone, the immense cloudy windows; he had always passed as quickly as his feet would take him, knowing that if he lingered too long, the men in bright clothes would come out.

Today 3590 was not afraid. The numb burning of his chest felt invigorating. His purpose could not be stopped. He lifted his head high and surprised himself with his own strength, forcing the thick paned glass doors open. A gray haired woman sat perched on a stool just inside the doorway. His blood surged anticipating a challenge, and he was disappointed when she turned her wrinkled face towards him and pointed towards a stairway winding upwards from the center of the floor. She recognized those here for their question. He climbed the stairway to the upper floor. When he saw the dark stained oak door, he instinctively knew he must pass through.

He strained to pull back the hinged slab, and the hallway stretched out like a two-lane street. Two men in yellow suits stood on opposite sides of a corridor doorway, and although the oak door had sighed loudly, the suited men did not appear curious. As he neared them they made no sign of acknowledgment, talking frantically to each other in a strange language, which 3590 could not understand yet found eerily familiar. The suited men clutched bundles of money, tightly white knuckled in each hand.

3590 lost his strength momentarily and stumbled towards the doorway, colliding with one of the suited men, who writhed in agony at the contact. 3590 was surprised when stepping back to regain his balance, he noticed blood staining the man’s yellow jacket. The yellow suited man noticed his gaze, jerking off the offensive garment frantically . He pointed out the stain to his associate, and they both wept profusely at the soiling, still oblivious to 3590’s presence.

He brushed past them and entered the room. Dense films of cobweb concealed the joining of the walls to the ceiling at the corners. Thick layers of dust coated over rows of metal folding chairs He walked the path through the center of the room. A wooden platform resembling a throne sat in the front of the room. He knew that he belonged in the open space before the dais. His stoic strides took him past the chairs into the opening. An altar was carefully placed at the foot of the throne. He sensed that kneeling was expected, but knowing that he was here for the question, he remained standing.

An old man emerged through the curtain behind the pedestal, and seated himself in the chair. The yellow suited men rushed in, hurried to the front and kneeled at the altar. The old man reached into his black robes and pulled out two thick stacks of money, handing one to each of them.

Reaching again into the folds of his robe, he produced a gold mirror and comb and began grooming the his patches of thinning gray hair. With the tone of one inconvenienced, he glanced towards 3590.

“I suppose you’re here for your question?”

3590 nodded, careful not to speak too early.

“Well, come on, what is it?”

3590 felt euphoric with anticipation. This was it, his question. Every one he knew dreamed of this day. The right to have one question answered, no matter what it was. Though asking it ensured that he would never see daylight again, he knew it was worth it. He remembered that word 3589 had used, before she was taken away. Finally, he would know what it meant. He cleared his throat to be sure he sounded as presentable as possible for his final utterance.

“What is an inail… an annailiable right?” he asked the robed man.

“Oh Jesus... That’s your question? I don’t fucking know. What the hell difference does it make?” he answered.

The yellow suited man without a jacket got up and seized 3590 roughly; twisting an arm behind his back. He led him through the curtain. Entering the concealed room 3590 saw 1512 laid out on a slab with only his face exposed, a sheet covering his inert body. 3590 knew he would be there soon, and that didn’t really bother him, as much as knowing that he still wouldn’t understand.

In the court room the robed man resumed combing his hair in the hand mirror, with the jacketed man prostrate at his feet massaging bills.

“Unbelievable isn’t it Peter? Do you think my hair looks better combed down the middle or to the side?”


                             -Brent Allard

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Long Ride in the Dark


I won’t say I didn’t look, down the slow train that pulled me,

or that at each stop I didn’t watch the doors for your entrance.

I was a child, and children don’t believe in death or mercy,

and absence doesn’t harm belief, as much as circumstance.

So I, without flowers, watched  vanishing town by town

And I, without hope, was certainly not disappointed.

There were others, asleep where they had fallen down,

I dreamed of a sword in a stone, of the hidden anointed.

And did I, cry out? Not once, as I had not learned to expect.

They moaned sweet curses in their sleep, the passengers nearby

As if they had found the same pain, and this was the affect.

And what could I do but carry this, or close my own eyes?

I don’t recall the stepping down, just the station the lights, the frames.

I watched the doors slide so many times, and you never came.

                             -Brent Allard

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Same Conversation


The lone man downplayed it in his head, but the over earnest guy at the next table disgusted him. He tried to ignore his pathetic chatting up of the waitress. But they all disgusted him, the earnest man, his friend and the waitress. He couldn’t stand to even think of them by name, they each played into types so completely.

The man he thought of as “Beer Commercial” said
"I've had too many beers already. Hell, I had too many before I got here!"
He really tried to sell it, but it didn't even matter. His conversation partners had agreed to suspend their disbelief years ago.

"So I guess you'll need another one quick then!" the waitress said, with an almost laugh at the end of her sentence. Beer Commercial didn't need to answer, as his friend was quick to jump in.

"I've known this guy since we were five years old, and I can tell you he’ll definitely need another beer!"

Beer Commercial's friend was "Mr. Intellect" He was a master of cutting in and trying to appear as if he'd been vital all along. Beer Commercial never knew the difference.

The observer sat at his own table nursing a beer. He didn't need to endure this for long, just until the work was done. His aloofness made the waitress hesitant to check his drink. 

At another nearby table, he overheard an older married couple discussing their check.

"Hard to believe that lunch costs that much." said the husband,

"But it’s worth it once in a while." the wife answered.

"Oh, I don't mind what it costs, it's just the idea, you know. We could do the same thing at home for next to nothing."
The observer rolled his eyes knowing that they had this conversation at least once a week. Years ago she had been annoyed, but now she used her husband’s lines herself when out with friends. Mercifully the husband didn't add anything about how little food costs restaurants this time.

He tried to imagine white noise. He couldn't help his revulsion. This wasn't a dislike of stupidity, a condition which couldn't be helped. It was the laziness and the sincerity of it. Regurgitation as conversation, yet they were as pleased as if they were clever.
He got up, pretending to need the restroom. On his way past Beer Commercial's table he simulated stumbling, knocking a beer onto the man’s lap. Beer Commercial reached out to keep him from falling. Mr. Intellect came to life pretty quickly, saying,

"Big mistake man. You fucked with the wrong table."

The lone man didn't look at Mr. Intellect, leaving him undisturbed to think up a witticism. He looked Beer Commercial in the eyes.

"I'm sorry about that. I feel terrible. Let me get you another beer."

Beer Commercial seemed fine with that, even offering a chair. Mr. Intellect glowered. The observer waved to the waitress and ordered a round, saying,

"Again, I'm sorry about that."

"No worries bra. I always say, Don’t sweat the small stuff, you know?"

He cringed. He'd have to do this quickly or his anger would get the better of him.

"Ok. Great. So tell me, how old are you?"

"Thirty four man. Why?"

"You've had thirty four years to come up with your own words, and you haven’t done so even once since you left elementary school."

"You've got a lot of balls..."

"Where'd you hear that?"

"Huh? Look man. I don't know who the fuck..."

"You'd be more threatening if you weren't imitating how tough guys talk. I can see your mind search for the most intimidating phrase you've heard. You think you’re thinking, although you’re only remembering"

Mr. Intellect spoke up.

"Teach him a lesson Curt. Fucking guy thinks he’s smart."

He looked at Curt, while pointing at Mr. Intellect.

"That’s part of the problem right there. Why would you hang around with him? I know you think of him as your friend but on some level you know he despises you."

Beer Commercial was clearly shaken, but clung to his bravado.

"You don’t know me man. You don’t know anything about me."

"I know all about you, but let's get to the point. When I leave, I don’t want you to forget I was here. I'll come back to check on you sometime. You won’t see me. Maybe in your house, maybe at a bar like this one, who knows? If I don’t hear you speaking for yourself, you really won’t have to worry about thinking anymore."

The man got up. He laid a hand on Mr. Intellect’s shoulder and watched him fall, instantly dead, to the floor.

He turned to Curt before walking out and said,

"Don’t worry. He was hopeless anyway."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Approximate Answer


At eight the train pulls through, announced by its brutal horn.

The trail behind grows louder, the rumbling of the cars

against their tracks, a rough release of mourning.

I can’t ignore it where I am. I hear the alarm

as if it were on my nightstand. Soon it will fade

and I will go back to myself. I don’t deny that it’s hard

to say what that is. Nevertheless, we burn through days

as if there will always be more. Only, tonight I doubt

the number. I question the stars and even the haze

between us. My life must make that sound

I think, a train pulled over tracks, not by any grace

but rather force and fear of leaving something out.

So how do I answer you, how do I speak to evening’s face,

You ask where I go when my eyes elude you.

What can I say, when I don’t have a name for that place

that makes nowhere and here, at once, both true.

And why do I answer now, why, when you’re not even here?

Because the question wasn’t asked or meant strictly for you.

I was there and involved in the asking, so need to hear

where it goes. And now, because I am a part of everything,

I hear the church clock chime the hour and disappear

so cars in the street can be heard. And then he sings,

some drunk, up to a shuttered window, and the closing of doors

behind people coming home. But what do I bring

with my listening? Why have I not answered you before.

Where do I go? Where. Listen, a song is playing in the distance,

building to the clouds and crashing to the floor.

I get caught in it’s travels, turns, the interludes, the twists

and sometimes I truly believe that it won’t end,

because I am too beaten to even raise my fist.

I have had enough of mourning, and so pretend

that it doesn’t touch me. I watch where this is heading

as if it were the second act of a play I watch again.

Because it is. Still, I want to be surprised, instead

of always knowing how much will be lost

in between the sounds and what is said.

                                               -Brent Allard

Friday, September 10, 2010

September Drive


Everyone on the road tonight

is nodding at the wheel.

The darkness is a vapor settled on

the windshield. Headlights can’t pierce

the fog that swallows daylight, pulls

away the hours much too early.

I have this conversation with

myself. Night on the Everett

Turnpike will not listen; its silence, more black

than the tar. I’m wedged between shades of

darkness. From the passenger’s seat,

you trust me to know where I am

going and would listen if I turned

to you and said, “It’s dark tonight,”

or “I think I’ve been lost since

the morning I was born,” and if

I said “The night is a raven’s

eyelid, closed.,” tonight, on this road,

you could get it.

you’d give me a look that says, “No,

that isn’t crazy.” The other

cars traveling this stretch of road,

mercifully, are quiet, except

for their wheels pulling up against road;

another mile- another mile- another mile

towards home.

      -Brent Allard

Monday, August 30, 2010

St. Francis and the Butterfly


“I’ll take that one.” Sal told the girl behind the jewelry counter, “It’s our anniversary, and she loves butterflies.”

“OK.” the girl replied pleasantly. “Do you know her size?” Sal thought for a second and said

“Yeaaah. It’s… Well it’s about like that.” He indicated the space inside the butterfly ring. The girl didn’t ask too many questions, she was polite but not chatty, unless someone was on the fence. She knew that Sal was buying today.

“Did you know that a butterfly landed on my hand, the day we met?”

“How nice. That’s a good sign if I ever heard one.”

“Yeah, she called me St. Francis sometimes, because of that.”


“Do you know why?” Sal was a little terse suspecting that she was only humoring him.

“He liked animals right?” she answered, trying to projecting more businesslike. He didn’t take the hint. She wanted to give him the hurry up hand motion, but didn’t.

“Yeah he liked them alright. He could talk to them and they would come right up to him. Birds would come and land right on his hand. Once he even tamed this wild dog that everyone was afraid of. He just walked up to it and said, what’s the problem dog?”

“I get it.” she threw in hoping to hasten the story.

“That’s $220.00.”

She would normally push the warranty but wanted Sal out of her store. He paid cash and turned to leave. She exhaled in relief, but he turned back to throw out a last thought for her.

“The thing is, I never heard of St. Francis and a butterfly, but she liked the idea so I didn’t say nothing about it.” The door closed behind him and the phone rang.

“Gordon’s Jeweler’s” she said.

“Hi Sandy, Monica. Just checking in”

“Oh hi. Yeah, everything’s cool. Pretty slow afternoon, sold one of the butterfly rings though. I got this creepy guy for an extra hundred dollars.”

“Creepy guy?”

“Yeah he thought he was St. Francis.”

“Right. Well don’t get too attached to the commission on that one.”


“Yeah, he comes in every year about this time. He’ll return it tomorrow, when he remembers what happened. I hope you were nice to him. He was friends with the manager before me.”

“Yeah sure. What’s he going to remember?”

“His girlfriend’s dead. She was mauled by a wild dog five years ago. I’m sure you saw it in the papers. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about him. Sorry.”

Sal took his time walking home through the park. He made sure to smile at everyone passing. He felt like he was walking above the ground, invincible with love and spring air. He could already see her bright smile when he opened the door. He couldn’t wait to show her the ring.

Thursday, August 19, 2010



You remembered cigarettes

after the names for things were gone,

you still had the two fingered gesture,

although you couldn’t light it or lift it to your mouth.

The hospital let it go, in certain cases.

You clung like an injured mountain climber

gripping a ledge halfway down the face,

too weak to scale your way back up,

and nothing to ease you down.

No help coming,

couldn’t reach you if it was,

although everyone said

“Expect miracles.”

and they paraphrased

that bible verse about

the faith of a mustard seed

moving mountains.

And I thought, move it all you like,

it’s still the same mountain.

But looking at you,

a painted skeleton, minus teeth

I did expect a miracle.

I asked whatever it is that listens

to prayers and pleadings

that you would notice your fingers

still clutching the shelf out of habit,

and tell them this once to let go.

                                         -Brent Allard

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just Before the Sky Fell Down


She twirled in the Santa Ana winds

like a satellite finding its orbit in the driveway.

The Eagles Greatest Hits played for the fifth time in a row

because letting it play was easier than finding another album

that everyone drinking could tolerate.

She really liked singing along to Desperado.

You felt indestructible, even knowing that when reality

returned, the woman you watched would be someone else’s wife.

But it could wait. Let it wait. Let it hang there like the moon.

No need to even mention it.

You couldn’t blame the alcohol, because you drank

yourself sober long before, and can’t pretend

you didn’t know what was coming, when she stepped back

inside, the wind still whispering around her, remarked that

the stars had brought you here, and then looked in your eyes,

and said oh so seriously, that infidelity isn’t a problem

but a symptom of a problem,

and you, of course, agreed.

                              -Brent Allard

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tower Window

after eleven a.m. by Edward Hopper

They say it makes sense. They tell you it does.

Last night the anchor said everything was fine.

But it’s hard to believe that from where you are

seated at your high castle window

where maybe the prince will see you.

(but is your hair long enough?)

Who placed you here, and how long ago?

This is no story, so there is no villain

so who then will release you?

(Heroes are useless in cities.)

This is not a story, not at all, so no one

wants to hear about your broken heart;

your poison apple, your deep sleep,

not Jon at the newsstand, not Mike and Billy

riding bicycles, not Emily holding an outside table,

not any of the hundreds who will pass beneath

your watch on their lunch hour.

They don’t want to hear that your clothes remind you

too much of the world, and only your shoes

keep you from vanishing. They don’t want to know.

This is not a story. They don’t want to know,

This is not a story they want to know.

This is a story: Everything is fine.

This is the story they want to know:

Everyone, everywhere, fine.

                                  -Brent Allard

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Miles Between Exits


Tom Joad carries a five gallon gas can,

towards the dropping orange sun.

Jesus looks to Tom and says “I’ll take it for awhile.“

They walk along the shoulder,

framed by shadowy finger clouds.

Sirens blare threats in the distance.

Tom hands the can to Jesus,

and nods a thank you,

his arm already feeling light enough to float.

Jesus feels the strain,

in his purpled eye, cheekbone

still stinging from the billy-club.

Wincing, Jesus says,

“It's like we never stop walking”

Tom replies, “I know, but we’re almost there.”

and wonders how best to tell Jesus

that the gas gauge in his Chevy

doesn’t work.


            -Brent Allard

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Single Serving

*after Edward Hopper's Automat

It's not such a terrible thing
to be alone, except for those
nights when the coffee is lousy,
but you drink anyway, because
no one would hear you complain.

This is a night of wearing down,
of ticking, of erosion becoming visible.
Call it a blue table night of the soul.
Even if someone occupied
the chair across from you,
What would you tell him; that
you've dreamed a life of circles
and lived one in squares?

He would say; "look into your
cup. Rest your head on the
table. The lights will keep you
safe, and when you wake
it will all be true."

         -Brent Allard

Thursday, July 8, 2010



It got me across the country. In fact I’m still driving it. I’ve already got more than my $800.00 worth. It’s ugly, brown and loud, but I don’t mind. There’s every sort of car out here, rusted out orange Pintos, and new Mercedes Benz’s. They make the movies here, so they’ve got to have all kinds. Some people even walk, like this guy I met yesterday playing country songs on his guitar, next to Jimmy Stewart’s star in the sidewalk. I would’ve given him a buck, if he’d known some Johnny Cash.

But here in the January sunshine, where even the migrant workers smile at nothing all day, what I’m thinking of, is you glancing out the window as the snow falls over Beacon St. You’re curled up in a blanket, watching 80’s movies, letting the telephone ring itself out, though not for Emilio Estevez or Molly Ringwald’s sake, you just can’t break the warm isolation of cable television. You’re not thinking of me.

I didn’t know I was leaving you, until I was on the road at three in the morning with only speeding eighteen wheeler’s to keep me company. I thought, some people do this every day and then head home again. But they must wonder, What if, this time I don’t turn around? They must, because it happens every day. I won’t turn around, and I’ll probably never think of you again like this. I’m just a face you saw a few times, had a few beers with, made polite conversation.

It’s not like I’m sending this to you. I just wondered for a minute, what it would be like to wake up in your bed as you were putting on your make-up to head out the door. Could I have lived there for the rest of my life, or was I always headed here, to this sunny ending, alone in my car at the In and Out Burger drive-thru?

-Brent Allard
previously published in Slipstream

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nothing Stays Open Late


You can’t do what you should,

so you’re sitting in a diner by yourself

at sometime like 2 in the morning,

wondering where it went;

what you had just yesterday,

that life you knew was just about to suit you,

but you couldn’t convince to happen.

You and your pride are the last one’s out,

into a night that feels like a second chance.

Only the stars see you smiling.

Everyone else has gone to bed,

and that’s good, you think,

because you couldn’t breathe in

these hours with an audience.

You couldn’t start again

because they know you.

These stars are out for you alone.

The moon makes even your sadness glow.

This time it’s gonna be different

and everything is really gonna work.

You roll down your windows

and sing out loud to the radio

The air you breathe is telling you

that you are still alive,

lucky to be alive.

The highway and the stars must be in love

and you’re catching how they feel.

It’s all for you tonight.

You wonder how far you could go,

if you pointed your car to the moon,

and kept on driving.

Finally you’d be something beautiful

a guy and his car that vanished in the night

and left a shining.

                     -Brent Allard

Friday, June 18, 2010

May Break Our Bones


Down all these streets, in all these cars,

we’re safe enough from sticks and stones.

Although none of it feels like it’s really ours,

just so much steel and skin and bones

I’ve wandered through a city,

where streetlights have eclipsed the stars.

Nothing I touch connects with me,

just empty streets and passing cars

Children draw their futures bright.

on plastic tables, soon outgrown.

the use for hope not yet in sight,

still content with sticks and stones.

We never became what we wanted to be.

We stopped too long, comparing scars.

We never saw what we needed to see,

just had a dream, that wasn’t ours.

Tomorrow, all the lights will change

and we’ll repeat what we’ve always known.

But tonight the world is large and strange

A maze of steel and skin and bones

                             Brent Allard

Wednesday, June 2, 2010



You’ve looked for the myth of America

across every state in the union,

and you’re no closer to finding it now

than you were at six years old, looking out

the back window of a station wagon, believing

that corn fields ran under the whole length of the sky.

Now, you know that the highway

hides her broken back. It makes sense

to you, following the crooked spine,

that something  in your gut feels like glass breaking.

You stop for gas and look at everyone

under the bright and unconnected ceiling,

punching numbers, lifting handles, sticking nozzles into tanks

and squeezing. They look at their cars or straight ahead

caught up in movements that don’t require music.

And you can’t help feeling lost

driving out from beneath the lights,

the smell of gasoline still faintly on your hands,

because you know you’ll turn left to get home.

                                          -Brent Allard

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Stories


There's a story

of a dark road where a man got lost

so badly he forgot where he was going.

There's another of a bright road

where a woman, also lost

took the wrong directions out.

These are the stories that raised me,

both the same story,

and my best explanation for urgency.

You have your own. I know you do.

But listen; there are only two stories,

Look out your window.

Tell me what they are.

                -Brent Allard

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

After Everything Else


After everything else

in January,

there are still strings of lights

blinking out stars and trees,

outlining frames of houses,

holding off the dark for

one more night.

The winter sky is clear enough

to almost see tomorrow.

I stood in the snow and tried

but my feet got cold too soon

to make it out.

What the last lights show best

is the darkness of other houses.

You walk with me now Love,

but I’m seeing when you won’t.

All I have to struggle with may

not keep you beside me.

This street is a thousand streets.

This evening it’s ours, but it will be

mine and yours. After different jobs and

other deaths and births and tragedies

we couldn’t believe right now.

You may walk this street in another city,

in another winter. You’ll still be feeling

everything this year took away, but it

will be under your skin by then, too

blurry to name anymore.

By then it will be an ache in your shoulders,

a constant pull to turn around. If you listen,

you’ll see the shape of me, or someone who

looks a lot like me, about to disappear around

a corner. Maybe you’ll love me again for that

familiar second and almost call my name.

but the wind will sting your cheeks

and you’ll think of a dark house in January

the night after all the lights were taken down.

-Brent Allard

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Six Parts of an Answer


She said she understood the distance

childhood builds into us.

I mentioned bread

and she said, “Say hunger

if that’s what you mean.”

We slept soundly in the fields

while steel clouds

churned destruction into rain.

Watching the plains, the thunder knew.

I saw the golden ladder reaching heaven.

All night I wrestled with the angel.

I wouldn’t let go until he told me,

that cold is just a matter of degree.

You have forgotten the cup of coffee,

that every cup since has been measured against,

and forgotten the proper form of a certain grief,

forgotten the street, the sound, the name.

Suppose that this Wednesday

those things delayed come to pass,

She waits for you with what she’s heard

a thousand words line up for you

like pigeons.

She said, “I will be any three.”

You laughed, only ready for two,

Throw runes to the birds.

Let need divide the waters.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010



He doesn’t trust her.

She doesn’t know why.

She just wonders, why did I settle for

this almost house on the plains,

miles from anyone who’d notice

the way my smile glows.

He doesn’t say much.

He smolders efficiently.

He looks at his boys and thinks,

for them I can keep this going.

She storms away from accusation,

plans for the second time to escape

a nothing town. She wants to be

something better, a phoenix

born of pigeons.

He walks in his sleep,

kisses his boys goodnight.

hoping that one love is enough.

He tries to find a solid piece of flame

But he’s an invisible man

and she shines so brightly,

he can see through his own skin.

The boys shake their rattles,

eat paste-like food from jars.

They cry when they’re hungry

when it’s not enough

the invisible man disappears,

and the woman of the pigeons learns

that a phoenix is born of ashes.

-Brent Allard

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Noir Sestina


Noir Sestina

The smoke from her cigarette followed her curves

and I didn’t blame it. But a dame like that is always

almost more trouble than she’s worth. She spoke in whispers

to see if I’d lean in closer. Then cue the waterworks.

Sure, she’s hiding something, or she wouldn’t be here.

She’d be talking to the cops. Just take the check.

A man who doesn’t notice her should be checked

for a pulse. Quite a story, but full of detours. She curves

around the truth like it was a tree in the road. Here,

take my handkerchief. Stop the sobbing. “Always

assume the worst.” I tell her. “That way if nothing works

You won’t be disappointed.” There are whispers

in the street about her and Robbie Chambers. Whispers

that she not only knows what happened, but gets a check

out of it. Lot of money, enough for fur coats, cars, the works.

But something went wrong. Somebody threw a curve

when they were supposed to throw a fastball. They always

do. That’s why the cops can’t help. That’s why I’m here.

I call her on it. I say don’t start the crying, I’ve had it up to here

with the grieving widow bit. That’s when she whispers

an offer we haven’t discussed, then says “Stay with me, always

I don’t know why, but I trust you.” Problem is, I’ve never had to check

my pulse, it doesn’t go much faster. Next thing I know the curve

of her back is wrapped up in my sheets, I’m thinking, this won’t work.

Her story’s still got more holes in it than her husband did. Work

it out, what happened? Maybe Chambers can tell me, since I’m here

already and his main thug just shortened the learning curve

by walking into several bullets. Chambers denies, whispers

“Please. please believe me. She can have the check

I just wanted my cut.” Maybe so, but Chambers was always

clumsy, until he tripped into an elevator shaft. It’s always

something though, isn’t it? That’s why I’m careful. After all, work

stops coming in if you’re wearing a toe tag. She’s got the check.

cashed, and a gun pointed at the glass in my door. She’s here

alright, the money’s with her. Her perfume in the stairway still whispers

the way she came in. My hand cups the curve

of the doorknob and it turns like it always does. I know exactly why I’m here.

I pull the trigger, and of course it works. “Stay with me…,” she whispers

and she’s gone. I don’t need to check. What a damn waste of those curves.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nothing on the Radio Tonight

Nothing on the Radio Tonight

Maybe I’m just a tired man who, unable to sleep,

pulls at the night, twisting it over as if it could cover him.

I try to hum louder than what I can’t help but hear;

the F# staccato of my nerve strings in revolt

the dull C of my arteries and veins,

murmuring their mutinies through my heart.

When this doesn’t work (it never has)

what’s left but to turn outside,

where sirens shatter modesty into fear,

(could they break my question open?)

a pair of sidewalk wanderers call out to nothing,

especially not each other. I believe

they would speak if they could.

Don’t blame the whiskey fog around them.

What they say is what you would say if you were

that lost with no ride coming.

Am I as lost? (No one is coming.)

If the sky were a drum that hammers could tap

out of time, it would sound like this, exactly like this.

And the train scrapes by like a rake pulling glass through gravel.

You’ve heard it before. It’s comfortable now.

The night birds shriek the hardest consonants they can find.

I trip over the K’s, as they drop to the sidewalk.

and the letters remind me of silence.

If you can hear me, sing;

even the smallest song that you can manage,

even if you barely believe it,

if you suspect that someday you might believe it,

even if you lie and laugh about it later, I don’t care.

I will believe whatever comes through your voice.

I have heard my own for too long to feel what it says.

-Brent Allard

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another April


Another April: Sestina

April arrived as if opening the wrong door. She, deciding

not to leave, made her way to the back of the room. Settling

into conversation, she ordered a drink or two, acting casual

as if her invitation was delayed in the mail, not forgotten

altogether. I didn’t mention it. It wasn’t my place.

I’ve never had any control over hour or days or months.

I haven’t thought of you for so long it seems like months.

I have not once questioned, (I claim) my decision.

because everything that begins, must return to the place

it started. Everything disturbed will eventually settle.

If there was a choice, I didn’t see it, or else I’ve forgotten

what it was. But, don’t think I did it casually.

Nothing that was between us could ever be casual,

not in all the years of us, the years, the weeks and months

of the life I wanted. (did I tell you that?) How can I forget

the mornings I’d find you fast asleep, and almost decide

not to wake you from the rest that finally settled

over you, as you tried to put the laundry in its place.

And I wonder, how a man is changed by places

in his life. Does he carry them all inside him, casually

moving from one into the other until the present settles

into his bones and keeps him there, as pages of months

fly off the calendar. Is there ever a real decision,

or do we only try our best and then count on forgetting

what we couldn’t fix. Christ, how I wish I could forget

even one little piece of who I’ve been, even one time, one place.

I’m tired of carrying all of this, every conversation, decision

introduction and goodbye, every step and misstep, each casual

gesture and ultimatory look. Yet I know that if you sleep a month

you’ll always feel the need to compensate, to settle

the account. When you can’t have what you want, you settle

for what there is. Jesus forgot to say “Blessed are the forgetful,

for they won’t feels as cheated as the rest.” This is the month

I’m stuck with, this is the day, the hour, the time and place

You know it as well as I do. We are all of us, only the casualties

of a million past collisions. But let’s pretend that we can decide

instead, whether to settle, to take (say they are) our own places.

Let’s say we had a dream we’ll soon forget. Smile and walk casually

as if life will wait however many months for this decision.

-Brent Allard

Monday, March 22, 2010

If God is a Company, The Devil Sells Product


Since prayer isn’t feasible, he sings to himself,

of the road and where it leads, of the dust that

kicks up into windshields, of the brake lights

that multiply instantly, and the crosses

off the shoulder. Every night is somewhere new

yet he’s seen it all before. knowing better than anyone,

that there are only twenty people in the world.

And whether or not you believe it, he’s tired,

and wants to take a break.

This is how he pays for what he’s done. He opens,

his magic sample case and shows you what you need,

Sometimes it’s brushes, knives that never need sharpening,

prime steaks, vacuum cleaners, non-stick cookware,

sets of encyclopedias, elixirs or lightning rods.

He doesn’t even know, until he clasps your hand.

and sees by your grip and the look in your eye.

that your kids don’t respect you,

that your wife thinks she settled,

that they took your milk money all those years ago,

and you cried in the dirt by the monkey bars.

You open the door of course.

He can’t read your mind, but why would he have to,

Soon you’re telling stories, He listens, feeds them back.

and now he’s your long lost brother, your kindred spirit

You’ll miss him when he leaves, as you remove

his water glass from the table

You’ll remember the clicks as his case opened up.

and his serious look, as if trusting you, and only you,

with the greatest of secrets; the elusive answer,

what you always wanted but didn’t know you’d missed,

the cure for loneliness, what you should’ve been,

if the mirrors hadn’t been backwards all along.

And, although it’s a shame to give it a price, what you’ve

got in your pocket will do, tonight, and only tonight.

Tomorrow he’ll be shaking hands with someone else,

They’ll open the door, and he’ll sell it again.

because it’s never cost, but value.

the thrill you never had, the friend that won't betray,

the antidote for the thoughts you have when everyone else is asleep.

It’s new, improved, state of the art, and 100% guaranteed,

delivered promptly, completely and discreetly,

balance bill to follow in another thirty days.

He’ll do this forever or until someone doesn’t need it,

whichever comes first.

He sings driving off, a song of forgetting how to get home,

of pulling off to close your eyes for just a minute,

of everything you want being one sale away,

one sale away again…


-Brent Allard

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Limited Offer


You are not her anymore, the girl in the bedroom

strumming chords, singing words that still mean something

to her, that still have power to reach across anything

to find that boy and make him worthy.

But I hope that sometimes, your husband wonders where you are

when he’s unable to pierce your clouded look,

and that you can’t tell him you loved someone hopeless

until you could only abandon his shadow.

I hope you tell stories with my name in them

quickly brushing it aside, as if I was a stranger that stopped

at your doorstep with encyclopedias under his arm.

I’m not proud that I promised you everything,

even at the moment of leaving. Nor do I apologize,

as I meant every word, as much as any unbeliever can.

If you were here I’d promise it all again

and leave you on your porch swing waiting.

A better man would wish you well and happy, but I only

want you reasonably well, provided for, yet occasionally

disconsolate, watching from your window for

that stranger to appear in the long dirt road, on his way

to bust your whole life open, ready to leave the kids

hungry at the table wondering where their mother went,

with no explanation ever coming close.

Once Upon a Time


You stood in the doorway

with your turquoise necklace,

like a talisman protecting you.

I almost believed that nothing

in the world was strong enough

to hurt you,

I believed you'd never said

the word that changed the whole equation,

and that we were still beginning a story

not wrapping up the ending.

Then, you said,

"We should run away and never come back."

and I knew this time you meant it

as you had every other time,

only this time you didn't laugh

to let me off the hook.

What could I say, but,

"I wish we could. I really wish we could."

You cried as if nothing in this world

could ever turn out well, standing in the doorway

with your turquoise necklace

only a necklace again.

-Brent Allard

The Dark Half of the Year


Lately your face has darkened.
I’ve watched you leave the room
like Persephone must have left,
on the flaming black horse of the dead.

They say that every year,
Persephone escapes the underworld,
Demeter relents from frigidity,
and the Earth has some consolation.

But what if remembered sunlight
caused her no pang of desire,
and the realm of the shadowy dead
began to feel like a home?
Would she dread her next look at the sky
as a prelude to another time forsaken?

Hades would need no deceptions then.
Persephone would count herself lost,
rather than lose the world again.
She would settle in her chair,
take another pomegranate seed
and chew it slowly.

I couldn’t dispel this thought,
so I kept this photograph
to remind me,
that when Persephone is cold,
from her seasons with the dead,
she can’t forget entirely,
that the sun is still traveling the sky
waiting to warm the Earth
once she emerges.

-Brent Allard

Another Greasy Spoon


It's easy to believe that nothing is changing

outside the breakfast all night restaurant,

where you tap a cigarette in a square glass ashtray.

You wish for a waitress to ask what you want,

to bring you dark coffee that you can make light.

What you get is a waitress that wants to be gone

and coffee that you can still see through at night.

But, it's here, so it's fine. You drink it and smoke.

You try to forget that outside is your life,

and it hasn't paused, at all like you'd hoped.

Since it first turned bad, it hasn't turned around.

A booth for four, tonight, is only for you and your ghost.

Your waitress sets the plate. You hear the sound

but don't really notice. She freshens your coffee up

and now you look normal, behind bacon, eggs and hash browns.

You stay until the endless cup of coffee is too much

and there's no choice left, but to walk into November,

wondering why this is always what comes after love.

-Brent Allard