"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



Friday, December 30, 2011

After Your Last Appointment

*




At the corner of Essex and Main

in a cold winter month

you hold signed papers in your hands,

and stand beneath the two street signs.



Cars rush by like separated pieces of a train,

almost pulling you after them,

this way, that way, this way

like everything always has,

everything on the way here,

until this job, this girl, this place, this time.



You’re seeing how wide the street is,

how much it can hold in one place,

all the lives that pass and disappear

in the minutes where you wait

until there is nothing between you

and where you parked.


                                    

                                -Brent Allard

Friday, December 16, 2011

Driving Back From Hollywood


*



Traffic was crawling.
I knew we’d be stuck for hours,
gaining inches at a time.
You asked me what I thought.
I said, “Different, than I expected.”

 
The stars on the street didn’t shine.
The musicians played for change,
and the town didn’t seem to know
that it leaves you dirty.

My thoughts were broken up,
sighting a traffic obstruction;
A truck had spilled a load of lemons,
covering the road with yellow skin,
crushed by many tires into something like steam
that flooded the nostrils of everyone driving through,
like a hanging air freshener magnified
thousands of strengths.

As much as we hated traffic,
nobody honked their horn
or cursed for quite some time.
The scent was too strong to focus
on anything other than lemon pulp
and yellow peels as far as we could see,
crushed against the highway,
sour and broken and clean.


                                -Brent Allard

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sure It Will Come to Me Later

*



The litter of our dreams

congests these narrow streets,

makes it hard to get by

without kicking papers around.

We pass through

the blown refuse

and I turn to ask you something

I forget before I find the words

and you want to know what it was-

I meant to say.

Giving my silence a look, as if

I’d committed a crime

and I can only answer,

“I don’t know really-

something, I think-

about time.”

your look turns back

to satisfied,

for now.



-Brent Allard

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Answering

*




I stand outside this evening,

watching light pull from the street

like a dress across the floor.


The leaves have started browning,

although some color sticks, and some

slight percentage hasn’t thought to turn.

October is gone, as it always is.



Find me here and ask me where I’ve

come from. Ask me why my whole life

has led to this crack in the sidewalk.

I will tell you everything.


Ask me what should be forgiven,

and what I hold in my left hand. Ask me who I

abandoned and where and when. Ask me if I will

finally confess that secret.



The lamppost will be my witness.

The rain will listen too,

though casually, without comment.

If you can’t stop, then turn your head and notice



before you drive off and forget,

that it’s hard to stand long in one place.

and feel this certain piece of earth beneath your feet,

because when you are this still, all that you were is with you,



Find me here, leaning against the Elm tree.

Ask me what I wanted, what I accomplished.

Ask me about the dream I wanted to have.

And I will tell you what you wanted and

What you never had. I will answer everything

that you already know.



                          -Brent Allard

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Your God Answers

*



He spoke with you this morning about

finding another job. He was snuffing out stars

while you talked, taking someone’s baby home

and helping to track down terrorists.



He told you to start selling real estate

and you laughed because for a second,

you thought he was serious.

When you reminded him that

you’re no salesman. He laughed

that you almost fell for it.



Then he opened up your Bible

to the page where he watches sparrows.

As he flipped the pages, he was

sending an earthquake to level 

low income housing, trying to get Pluto

removed from the list of planets,

planting an addendum to the Book of Revelations

in a cave near the Dead Sea,

and other things, he wouldn’t specify.



You sighed in relief that he

could be so many places at once.



                             -Brent Allard

Friday, November 4, 2011

Calling

*



I will stand here and call you

until the wall behind me crumbles.

I know that you will hear me,

because there is a word

that I put inside your name

every time it leaves my mouth;

a word that is nothing on it’s own

and yet so powerful that it

can break and heal

in the same instant.

It doesn’t care about syllables

or distance. It will find you

across the universe,

hidden in a city or a dream.

to deliver your name in my voice.

My cigarette smoke tells this future;

it draws your true face in the air.

Look through my eyes in the moment

that I’ve just kissed you.

There you are love, fearless and whole.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Now Playing

*



Life was the grandest movie.
We sat in our ragged seats
and waited for the future to unfold

this movie, called America,
where nobody has to be poor,
nobody has to stay lonely.

Sure, when the lights came on,
We went back to one check away,
the kids wouldn’t listen, and the car
broke down in the mornings.

Sure, I knew that you never forgave me,
for losing that job with the state, but you
stopped taking your pills. I told you
we couldn’t afford another kid.

Sure, we screamed at each other,
with the kids on my nerves all the time,
(and you never taking my side.)
But, why should we talk about that?

Remember our America,
where nothing gets too bad
and if it does then it’s not for long.

I’ve got this idea for an invention;
a fuel pump that runs your car on dreams. 
I’m going to show it to General Motors.
They’ll give me five million dollars
just to keep it from getting made.

I’ll buy this place then, and you can
fly out to see your mother anytime.
We’ll never go through all this shit again.
The neighbors will watch us come and go.
They’ll say we stepped out of the movies.



                                 
                                        -Brent Allard

Monday, October 31, 2011

Absolution

*




Because,

no one accepts easily,

that the potential

they spoke of,

as if a mark on your forehead,

or a color of hair,

can be like a good cup of coffee

gone cold on the table.

No coffee pot,

no microwave oven,

no milk or sugar added in,

will ever make it taste like it did.

like it could’ve,

like it should've,

Duane.


               

                                 -Brent Allard

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living Room Scene

after Room in New York, by Edward Hopper

 





We are not together,

although we insist on this room.

You are there,

plinking keys behind me,

tuneless, just distraction.

You say that you don’t understand,

why this two feet between us happened.

You think I’ve forgotten, but I have not.

I wish I didn’t know where we’re going,

but I do, and because of that I will admit

(although not yet) that I know

why you hate this newspaper

(and need to talk about that dress.)

If I were being fair, I would be urgent

to answer. If some word, some glance,

some touch would return us.

Once, I could’ve lived on the taste

of your lipstick.

But, we’ve worked at this too,

at this distance.

I know exactly how far it is.

Another man, sitting where I am,

could reach out his hand.

He could put down this paper, and you

could play something beautiful.  

                 


                            -Brent Allard

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tour of Your Wyoming


I.

Your father (my grandfather) showed me the football field,

where the bigger kids cleated you to stop you from playing.

Your stepmother, Louise, watched every game.

You snarled at her to stay off the field,

no matter what happens out there.

She struggled to hold herself back.



She remembers how you always fought

and told her, You’re not my mother.

There’s still amusement in her voice

as she relates how you, at twelve years old

figured out why you couldn’t get along

Louise, we’re just too much alike.




II.

Your father pulled his pick up

off the shoulder of a small dirt road,

the same one he used to take you

to the hunting camp in Ten Sleep

He stepped out of the truck,

and pointed, across the dust

at the ranch where you grew up,

The house was right about there.

he says And that,

(finger sweeps left, precisely.) 

is where your dad broke horses.



Twice, he pointed out

the Holly Sugar Plant

where he himself had worked for years

processing sugar beets.

He tells me, he got you that desk job,

there, that he wishes you’d kept

instead of going off to college.

if only he’d stayed,  he says

and his voice cracks, like

it would have been different.




III.

Want to see where he is?

your father asked, not waiting for my answer,

He drove to the cemetery.

Louise said he’s only come back once,

About twenty years ago.

She talked him into going.

She thought it had been long enough.

He fainted. she said and they never went back.

Even now, more than 30 years gone

he stumbles, but she’s ready

to help him back into the truck.




IV.

We sit at Chuck’s Grill, in Thermopolis,

to meet your brother David.

Your father drums his fingers on his

watch face, adjusts his hat brim.

Louise clasps his arm,

reminding him to take it easy.

I don’t notice when David arrives.

He just appears at the table

and shakes my hand

without commitment in his grip.

He stays almost silent, until finally

explaining that he’s deaf in one ear,

so I can talk towards the good one.



They should be telling me things

that a son would want to know about

his father, things that only families know

but only Louise, and she isn’t blood.

When she does, they let it pass

with tired nod or half smile.

Your father’s used all his stories,

and your brother would rather

act like he’s listening.



I wish I had some evidence of you

to show them that something

came of what they lost.

But I have nothing to give them.

I never had enough for my own reference.



Still, you are here

at this table, in between us,

your father, brother and son,

like the red plastic tablecloth,

beneath all of our hands,

obscured underneath.

what we’ve ordered.



V.

Every day pumps hammer down,

swing up, pulling oil from the hills,

Mechanical hands pull sugar beets

and drop them into empty trucks.

Irrigation tubes decorate everything,

long fences of their thin linked arms,

cast shadows throughout the fields.

Earlier, your father pointed to them

and said, You have to bring the water in

or even the grass won’t grow here.



VI.

I stopped to see you again

on the way out of Worland,

before heading out of town.

I’d come a long way to leave

with nothing but snapshots of scenery

having only touched the holes you left

in others. I thought, maybe

you would speak to me alone.



I kneeled down at your marker,

traced your name with my fingertip,

trying to spell who you were.

I reached for what was left to say,

what I’d always wanted to ask,

but couldn’t find;

the words to finally bury you.

But, I couldn’t ask questions

you never answered for yourself.



For years I wished you were here

Some years I was glad you weren’t.

I don’t wish anything for you anymore.

I did all I could to see you

even knowing I wouldn’t see you,

there, where you’ve always been,

beneath the grass I kneel on,

a ghost that won’t stir in his coffin,

silent beneath a brass plate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Later Draft

*


Every crumpled page says the same thing;

Once there was a man who needed nothing.

so let me start again.

having broken my bones against the wall,

which was again unmoved; having pulled

a thousand mornings in through a cigarette

I concede, to the blank page in a still typewriter.

that I must abandon revision, for a new draft,

to find the words which I’ve worked to polish dead.

Tell the real beginning now or the false one forever.

Tell what you’ve hidden, what your shadow says;

Once there was a boy who needed one thing.


                            
                                   -Brent Allard

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reclamation

*


Don't mind the ashes.
We aren't the first
to kick through ruins.
When the roof collapsed,
the light improved--
Shouldn't we use it?
Find one thing unscathed
hold it in hand, smell it, study,
until it's burned into your eyes.
When you're sure you'll never
forget the shape, leave it.

You won't return.
Someday it will be
the only thing that matters.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Corollary

*




The  skyline

over the tablelands

makes the sunset seem

limitless,

a universe

unto itself.

“Proof,” you say

“of a painter’s hand.”



I say the sun,

is larger than it looks,

yet a dust mote

compared

to the distance

between us.



Now look,

out there,

across the dirt,

as far as you can see.

Those specks

against the hills

are buffalo.



                           -Brent Allard

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Illumination

*




There are ghosts in your eyes

but you won’t name them.

Tonight, the voice of god

is a bird call, shrill,

from a branch

Tired, yes, tired,

and what you’ve carried,

you can’t put down.

You’ve waited,

for a burning bush,

or a light in the road,

to knock you from your horse,

but there’s only the wind

chipping ice from the edge of the roof.


                                
                                -Brent Allard

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Close Cover Before Striking

*




He ripped one out and struck it,

watched it flare up like a brand new dream,

sucked the flame through his cigarette.

It burned until all that remained, was the bit

between his fingers, which he flicked out the window;

another useless plaything for the wind.


                           
                                   -Brent Allard

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Setting Up the Carnival

*



They’re bolting parts together,

and putting down the power lines.

I’m sure there’s nothing new.

But, driving by reminded me

of the cotton candy,

blue for me and pink for you.



We went on all the rides together, 

because you said  "there’s nothing sadder

than a girl alone on the Ferris wheel."

I spent ten dollars on darts

to win the Led Zeppelin mirror,

and I knew how heroes feel.

It rained a little but we didn’t care.

We laughed, so happy then.

                            
                                  
                                  -Brent Allard

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The First Taste of Smoke

*






My first cigarette was stolen.
Jim’s father kept cartons in his truck
and never counted the individual packs.
Behind the garage, we took our first drags
of that death reserved for grown-ups.

In a picture of my father,
he has a cigarette in one hand
and helps me to stand with the other.
I found it easy to smoke them.

And the cigarette stubbed out,
for my first kiss reminded me of that.
so I kissed her, but too hard.

She was afraid of the urgency in my lips,
my futile attempt at communication.
I wanted to tell her everything,
how I missed my father,
how good it was to light a cigarette
when he couldn’t anymore.
She couldn’t get that from a kiss
so she ran away from me.

The first time making love was like that too,
trying to make my body say everything
about every first time I’d ever known,
but all my inexperienced thrusting,
was doomed to saying nothing,
so I lit a cigarette and walked away.


                                      -Brent Allard

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lip Service

*





You wave your magic hands

as if you can heal when you want to.

As if given the inclination, you could open

the coffin lid, and raise him up,

as soon as you said “Come forth.”



You say that you knew him, as if you remember

that one communion twenty seven years ago.

But you don’t need to know him. You have the notes.

You talked with mother, father, brother.

So when you say he’s “pitching” for us,

you expect us to smile

thinking, isn’t that just like him?



Some of them believe you. They buy your white robes

and your whitening hair. They admire the way you sprinkle water

and the verses you hand selected from condolences in your

holy official concordance.



But I don’t see him in your speech or in your verses,

I think it’s too late to baptize or anoint him.

The clearest fact, is that you didn’t know him, and

no one who did has influenced your notes.

Kind Father, Intercessor, Matchstick Man


                           
                                      -Brent Allard

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vigil

*



We don't even fall like heroes,
matchstick figures in diorama cities

windows sliding open,
people walking fast
pigeons hit the wires
and the glass.

The laundromat's as dirty
as any restaurant.
Everyone wants
what everyone else
is breathing.

I light candles for this city.
No other window answers,
as if I'm mourning early
the vanishing length of night,
the dust on still walking shoes
and the jagged noise of streets
without music.


                                       

                                           -Brent Allard
previously published in Images From Ruin

Friday, June 3, 2011

Looking at Light.

*


Even though you’ve turned on every light,
you know it’s a lie.
You know that bulbs
only last a hundred hours,
and never reach every corner,
or outside the windows.

Look out the window now.
Look at the streetlight.
Nothing exists more lonely than that.
Look at the corner the light hits
and the dark universe enclosing it.

They said nothing was faster than light
but light came second.

That’s why it’s romantic
to be the streetlight,
the last lamp on the bedside table,
the candle burning on the desk,
to know you’ll never beat it back,
only hold it off a little,
until you burn out.
Still, you say,
Look at this corner,
Look through the night.

Sure, the darkness always wins.
There’s nothing to be done about that.
Although once,
I looked out
into the dim morning
and saw the lit corner,
sun coming up just behind it.
That’s got to count for something.     


                                           -Brent Allard

Sunday, May 29, 2011

An Argument

*




What you forget, is that sometimes I believe you

and sometimes I love your lies just like the truth.



How carefully you cover up your scars,

though love feels like the outline of a bruise.



Nothing has ever been born that didn’t break,

so why should you be less, or be ashamed?



One night, you stopped me and pointed out stars,

worried that they would fade.



“Some of them,” you said, “are already gone

and we’re seeing the light that remains.”



I said, I didn’t believe the stars stopped burning

and somehow, they must always go on.



You laughed, when you could have argued

and so easily proved me wrong



I remember, you said, “Let’s go inside.”

and how lightly you kissed me then.



                              

                                         -Brent Allard

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Father's Explanation

*



“Horses don’t want to be glue.” my father told me, years after his death. He wasn’t frightening, the bullet hole in his head had been fixed somehow, so he was intact and calm. His Marlboros were rolled into his sleeve and he was drinking beer from a dirty glass.

That was all he said. I didn’t ask for more and had nothing to answer with. I just watched him draw his cigarette down with a precision that was almost love. 
When I woke, I thought of him, near the end, when he was running for governor. He said the first thing he would do, would be to walk into Laramie Savings &Trust in blue jeans and grease stained T-shirt and wait for a teller to speak condescendingly. He would say, “Miss, did you know that I’m the Governor of Wyoming?” She would apologize profusely in this story, hoping to keep her job.

I think he must have realized that the bank teller doesn’t mend her ways, she just says what you want to hear. And that he didn’t really want to be governor any more than he’d really wanted to be a football star, an Air Force officer, a lawyer, or a father.

If he were here now, whatever else he was, he would still be angry, still be drunk, still hate his mother and accuse his wife. He would still be not good enough to make up for what his father never was.

And I knew what I would tell him, Horses don’t want to be anything but horses.
                                               -Brent Allard

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Choose





Seeing you

in your prime,

when you had

a chance:

I want to tell you

that this is no accident.

Every crossroads

is as simple

as Madison vs. Milwaukee;

You can hate until it kills you,

or love until you die.

There is a difference.


                                                                 -Brent Allard