Two Poems by Conor Bracken


Running After Years

My gait’s a mistake my feet keep making.
Allow me to introduce myself: an unbridled trot.
A hotel quietly on fire and the guests
asleep, dreaming of cleaner sheets.
Of forgetting their phone chargers
and overtipping the chambermaids
for messes of deferred responsibility.
My lungs inveigh their circuitry with air.
What unhappiness propels the sun
to punish everything with shadows?
I once mistook a bathmat for a towel
which is the most salient detail of my past
I think you, buckled sidewalk, ought to know.
This confusion of what to use on my body.
Of what my body needs in order to forget
something tracing all of it.
I’m starting to sweat. The sea sweats, too,
with light. Let’s take off our shirts
to save the laundry cost.
Let’s bare our hammering hearts,
let them get as close to the sun
they keep beating and beating and beating
outwards for.


Consolation is the eventual sadness
of your enemies. Or so says
my father to his children,
picked on like helpless daisies,
pickled thinly in their tiny angers
and wondering what the language of rotten
vegetables can say better than they can.
“Elliot was an asshole, leaving
that salmon in the ductwork of the rental
he thought was shitty but really
was his expectations being too high.”
Better, he says, to wait for the inevitable.
But my patience is a card trick
my hands are still too small for.
And Casper says it best, I think,
his pack of Swisher Sweets empty
but still fragrant, his camping chair
surly with the weight of him:
“I’m gonna kick sleep’s ass tonight.”
Up since three a.m. mixing tubs
of thawed chuck then pouring concrete
into the sneer of his broken driveway all day.
“Sleep is gonna be mad at me”
and what’s sleep going to do about it
but turn him over and over and over
roasting the frail meat of his body
on the spit of a dream
that he can choose to remember
or to let lie, a needle
lost in the meat of his memory
that can’t thread a goddamned thing.

Conor Bracken’s poems, which have been nominated for the Best of the Net and received grants from Inprint and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, appear or are forthcoming in Adroit Journal, Forklift OH, Muzzle, The New Yorker, and THRUSH. A graduate of Virginia Tech, a former poetry editor for Gulf Coast, and the assistant director of a university writing center, he received his MFA from the University of Houston, where he and his wife currently live. He is the author of Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour, winner of the 2017 Frost Place Chapbook Competition and released by Bull City Press in 2018.


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