"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, 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