Brian Teare, the recipient of Stegner, National Endowment for the Arts, and MacDowell Colony poetry fellowships, Brian Teare has published poetry in Ploughshares, Boston Review, Provincetown Arts, VOLT, Verse and The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry, among other publications. His first book, The Room Where I Was Born, was winner of the 2003 Brittingham Prize and the 2004 Triangle Award for Gay Poetry. Author of the recent chapbooks, Pilgrim and Transcendental Grammar Crown, he lives in Oakland, CA and is on the graduate writing faculties of the New College of California and California College of the Arts.

Three Poems by Brian Teare


Californian

It began like this: a radio
midday, heat—remember?—a shriek

on the highway, and in the yard
Steller’s jays chafing over haggle, nag, their claims

a lyric tableau—pretty for the eye—how
sun for months stuck aureoles

of chrome around everything, even
your poems, omens

so no other disaster would happen.
But that there was dust—

it had not been so before in June,
grass dead at edges

where a dirt spread had begun, feral
cats interring piss into nasturtiums.

His death had become
the dropped side of a song, melody

undone by damage
exactly the feel of teeth entering

an apple’s bruise. The trellis kept
the jasmine rapt

as it collapsed in its own odor; so ardor also
trained the spine

of your weeping into a mind,
confluence of fumes and confusion. Over sills,

jambs, silt sent collusion: thistle, burr, mouse
turds, urine’s lingering funk in rooms

where to write was a widow
alone with the last broom she’d bought. Heat,

with its missing finger
and nine filed nails, tuned all afternoon

its blue note: horizon a slack string tautening
against asphalt, whose sound

was drought, marsh departed
before August began, black-outs rolled

house to house, how perfect the fraud and emergencies.
So there were two songs

sung in counterpoint
to jays, argument about belonging to

a place,—remember—
prey and prayer, one struck

the other beneath the lyric image, playing flint
to tinder until on the radio

eastern hills caught fire: extremis,
excelsis, that is

how summer, all veils
and exhalations, courted the hills. How

already the church was burning
when your soul went out to meet him, to marry

his new weather—

[first published in NO: a journal of the arts]


Dead House Sonnet

house of each sentence endlessly hinged, house of each phrase
        opened elegy
entirely latches, exactly latches, hasps, proliferant, endlessly opened, of
        doors,
termini effigies, each noun in a house a nova of votives, wicks ashen,
        burnt
them, syntax like bark that smoldered the garden in winter, nasturtiums
come summer undone verbs, burnt them, burnt tense, the present’s
        past, burnt
that, house of ash, house a tinge, a reek of eucalyptus oil, burnt the wild,
burnt the intractable, weedy, deep-rooted tufts of thistle’s purple furze,
       made
house to come down, trashed, screens slashed, jambs unplumbed,
       without
doors, made drained porcelain the old forms, gave chip, gave to stain
structure, made gone what touched him, stripped paint, grain of floor,
        made
gauged the gouge of form, form the firmament fallen, made whiteness
a wall, made framed the fallen lavish tragedian shadow where a picture
        hung,
made what’s left a nail, nib, of shadow, made it mine tongue unto
        nothing,
made it quite, it query, quisling, quietude’s quill, that silence : writing :
        then sirens

[first published in Verse]


Two Elegies Containing Fear

1—Fragment 42

                                                         Not thought, fact

                offers patterns : local, habit

                                                                   of arrangement itself a pleasure

                              such as the woman each morning scatters

        curb-side—crusts thrust in a fist

                                                 from a brown bag—gesture

                a gist of description : Sapphic fragment, desire’s biography

                              a long day of waiting

                                                         the color of pigeon’s feathers—

        “their hearts grown cold, they slacken their wings”—

                                                                                            and love they are yet

                                                 sun-soft asphalt

                              brushed with sand, each wing-

              span unlatched demonstrating tin

                                                 chips of glint, the saturation

                                                         —like oil—

                              of plenty,

                                                 spectrums—

                                                 —Fear—



Coast woken to
unknown. To think
is verge, surf, shelf


edge. Interior
ocean, mind
a bright cry beached.


Worn porcelain eggshell
ivory and dry, in dilation,
porous, forged


open, the skull’s shell
hell in which the sea kneels
tongue—bang


and serenade—, curls
its words’ pearls’ horde
of whorls. Listen—


waves turn
on their spit, burn
surf, sizzling, stir


the haphazard fat
foam. Listen—
it is certain


emergency. The waves
unravel burning
skeins, skin.



2—Fragment 51


                             Morning a form

                                                 so small

        hours like bees house their mouths in darkening wax—amber fast

                                         to umbra—, its way of being

                                                         to be smallest

                                                 in simile : ivy

                                                         weaving between slats

                             sleaves, sleak, of verdigris and deeper

                                                                        green; just there in the window

                                                  the word lavation—slow

                             imitation of water (wash

                                                  and scour, wash

             and scour), light lending the hour

                                   density; “I am in two minds”

                                                                        while reading—the mind

                                                  the bird outside the window;

                           each sentence

              its shadow falling in the house—the page

                                                         and a voice breaking

                              above it, who is it

                                                         enters, who is it

[first published in NO: a journal of the arts]