Tuesday Oct 17

GeorgeBrandi Brandi George ’s poems have appeared in such journals as The Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, and Best New Poets 2010.  She is currently a PhD candidate at Florida State University, Editor of The Southeast Review, and Assistant to the Director of Creative Writing.
                                                                               ---------

 

 

     Sunday Tractor Pull


     Mother bites her lip, still
     glossed from early morning service,
     and shifts gears, while old men
     watch the weight inch up
     the transfer sled. Her long braid
     unravels like sparks of wheat
     they’ll part each sunrise, squinting east
     and east through fields less wild
     than when, as boys, they ran
     for miles. Alone, I’m reading
     Sweet Valley Twins and wishing
     I were blonde, while the world watches  
     my mother dismount
     from a 1938 Allis-Chalmers.
     She’s a primal sky gazelle,
     a shovelful of black soil
     like what sticks to our hands
     and knees after pulling thistles.
     We snap string beans. We bristle
     the earth from our fingernails.
     We’re made of Gerald’s boot,
     billows from the track, matchbox
     Thunderbirds. Old men’s beers
     spray diamonds, ball caps tip
     in praise. The forest-combed air snaps
     a promise into our noses:
     Death is a bright green vine.
     As the sun honeys fields
     around us, we find ourselves
     in the silence between
     engine pops, spit from a calf’s
     conched mouth. The metal bleachers
     burn our thighs, so my mother drapes her flannel
     beneath me. And eagles weave
     golden nests from her wind-born hairs.
     I don’t tape my breasts.
     Father doesn’t hunch all afternoon 
     making ammo. He pays his taxes.
     When my mother miscarries and almost dies,
     he agrees to adopt a son
     and names him Joshua. Mother finishes first.
     And she’s Queen of Red Flannel Days,
     her tractor-shaped trophies
     gild the mantle. She doesn’t walk;
     she’s carried, and everything
     she touches sings. I don’t pluck
     the buds off her azaleas. I don’t wander
     mint fields alone. In this story,
     after the first frost kills the tomatoes,
     there are two puffs of breath
     in the yard—mine, my sister’s.



      Love Manifesto


     
                                         Because of the iris’ yellow tongue, the bouquet
                                                                 my uncle picked from the creeks’
                                                     outer bank, his giant leap over water,

                             I plant each bulb.
                                                                    
     Because in a storm trees sound like infants, the arrowheads
                              I gathered from the forest floor shimmer
                                                     and break apart,
                                                                             I see figures
                             weaving through the maples.
                                                        
                                         Alone with P.J. Harvey
                                                     cranked so loud it shakes the houses
                                         on Pearl Street, my mother playing cards
                                         at the bar until dawn, the neighbors
                                         staring at their ceilings but allowing it,
                                 
                 I repeat: phalanges, mandible, illium, scapula, scapula,
                                                                 scrawling note cards for AP Bio.

                 After moving from an 80-acre farm
     to a small house in town, my mother
     buys me nice curtains—lace, silk
                 roses blooming all around them, a stranger
     perhaps upstairs,

                             I vow: no boy will ever touch me.

      Do we learn phylum, rhombus, haiku because of love
                             or do we love each thing after knowing it?

I sometimes kiss my books, sometimes sleep with them all around me, under the pillow, beneath the sheets, paperbacks clutched to my chest like the stuffed animals that flew from the back of a pickup, wheeled to bits on the expressway and

                my father wakes up
                in the mountains without me
                or the combine’s drone.

                             *

      We call our religion The Game, cut up
                 my mom’s nylons to make our doll-gods’ robes.
     My stepfather burns our spells, but the scriptures
                      remain as squirrel skulls by the creek.
     Because my best friend lets me sleep in her bed, steal
     the blankets, and eat her Halloween candy,
                             I put the gun back in my lunchbox; I read
     Nietzsche from a Bibles’ leather case, and laugh it off
     when at church camp, I’m pushed onto the stage.
                 We un-baptize ourselves in the creek at 2am. We ditch
                                         our cartoon pajamas.

                             *

      To impress my grandma, my grandpa turns his hat
                                         backwards and hurdles a four-foot gate.
                After her death, her porcelain angels gather a decade of dust, but
                             he won’t let us touch them.
                                                                   
     The Loved are nightly infused with radioactive brightness.
                             Their parents hover around them
     like desperate moths. No one remembers when the Un-Loved left
                             or to where. Truths learned at cemeteries:

                                         1. If lightning had soft edges, it would resemble the soul.
                                         2. There is a soul.
                                         3. Souls hang out and fall in love, and there’s nothing
                                                     we can do to stop them.                     

                 I was afraid of the inside-dark but not the outside-dark, and the stars
     were particularly talkative. They told me that time is hands
                                                                 rising to conduct a fugue.

      All I’ve ever had, will have, imagined, spoken
                 into the air, eyelashes blown from fingers, strands of hair
     stuck to the shower wall, petals ripped, meditations to expel desire,
     a Ken doll’s torn leather jacket—rests on the beloved’s worm-spun head.