about the author

Brandon Brown was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. He was recently named a 2014 PEN Center USA Poetry Fellow, and when he is not writing, you can find him working at a non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent housing solutions for families experiencing homelessness. You can find Brandon on the Internet at brandonjordanbrown.com.

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My Father’s Father’s Bones

Brandon Brown

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You and I both know Arizona, and of course there is Colorado.
In so many somewheres of the planet’s knuckles,
people have dismantled mountains, carving paths through them
with powder, fuses that hissed curse words at rocks, and mules
carrying shovels and canteens and serious men on their backs.
We remember the cancer
that dismantled my father’s father’s bones,
the way it eagerly spit tumors out of its mouth and through his body
like it had been chewing on gravel or bitter seeds,
and how we sat in front of our closet, waiting on the phone call
that turned out of his driveway onto County Road 8
and traveled to our house on the buzzing wires strung up above the
he’s gone now.
When we arrived, my father found the honey-colored case of pocket knives,
and I found the sobs that poured from his unshaved throat.
I saw my father on his knees, clawing
at the collection like an animal digging for something hidden in the yard.
Give me a pocket knife.
What do you want me to dismantle?

My teenage hands were not strong enough, and had only ever thought of
so we dismantled the house instead, taking our grandfather’s books,
his old jackets and hats. We carried the history of Rome,
stories of the first stagecoaches that wound through spiteful mountains,
and outdated track suits back to our shelves and our closets
to give us reasons to keep saying his name, so we could smell
the stale paper and see the frayed collars and remember him reciting poems
telling us at the dining room table how he got so angry
at his cow that he punched her in the field
full of scorched trees behind the house, her thick side
dismantling the tired bones in his hand, leaving
a pile of aching that I couldn’t cut out.

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