On the Custom of Wearing Clothing
by Brandon Lewis
I’d like to say I don’t want fancy socks for Christmas
but layers are what I’m looking for— the weight of layers
to substitute for gaudy feathers and the extravagant
of antlers that, when most prized, leach the interior bones until they
shatter. In grade school the principal heard us shuffle
in the bathroom stall— the only black boy and me. Pried
our door. Where to place this body and this body and conceal
I want to accept the cold for what it is
as if I knew, as if I knew what miserable child
weaves the stripes on my socks.
Sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records,
the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat.* I light a stranger’s candle
and feel a limbo—the body enough,
the body unable to catch up. We must have already tried
hanging leaves on our bodies. They flickered in the breeze
but itched, and their protection was mostly supernatural
so we killed and placed animal hair over our animal hair.
The principal searches my locker and finds my father’s faded Playboy
bought “for the John Lennon interview.” His grins says
we must not be gayboys afterall. Behold
umbrella lighting, nipples, trail of hair, and outdated
It’s hunting season, but each layer we put on / take off should not feel
this treacherous. The night
I skinny-dip in the Ligurian
the underground river flowing up,
the fear of touch by accident, the stranger
who jerks off at me in the sauna as I flee,
the graveyard I run past as a child, holding my breath for the dead
until it no longer makes sense, trespassing
to the quarry together, our bodies suddenly apparent, ready to
The naked wine stands upright, retaining the shape of the jar. ** On my own
I’m not sure that I can uncouple
the fir tree’s fresh wound, its adornment, its smell of the cold
dead at the curb
from our nostalgia for an original state.
I like a little sugar-water. A pair of fine socks. Though
I absolutely don’t need them…I’m saying it now in black and green
next to all the tits and asses on page 196.***
I will take your gift of socks, however colorful, though
my feet will never be the imperishable fire I wish for them.
It is must be all right to shiver.
“Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” Playboy, Jan 1980***
That Difficulty Increases Desire
by Brandon Lewis
My city-born friend snaps limbs from trees for the bonfire
and hands me their greenness. Why refuse
this gift of smoke and hissing years of rain?
Every tree is difficult. Take this oak and its burl—such handsome infection
to climb. I am sorry but without Violence it's too late to catch up with them...*
Was a societal leg up ever real?
That night my tires stuck in the snow at the bar, we said deadpan
If one of us makes it we all make it. At some point
we godheaded the difficult. We were overly clever in wet dreams.
Any fugitive slave who wanted asylum in the grove had to remove the current occupant.
He broke a bough off the tree as a challenge to combat.** Each tree an angel.
That night my tires stuck in the snow at the bar I was jealous of my friend’s words.
Jealous of a landscape in my head. Each tree terrible.
I just missed the dating fad of everyone alone, coring
through profiles row on row from which glorious frenzy I would never
recover. Each curve terrible. The night my tires stuck in the snow at the bar
I wanted a comeuppance. For my inaction to break,
for the systems I benefit from to break me.
…as long as you are watching the news and Voting, there ain't a damn thing you can do about it
but write a poem. * A poem is an increase. An increase of what?
Solution: Get yourself an Enigma machine, kid.
Only math won’t save you from the difficult. Nor the clean forest fire.
There exists only one oiled body-builder on video who can truly dance.
Oh no honey. Barfed in my mouth.***
That night my tires stuck in the snow at the bar I confessed
I had it all wrong going after women instead of writing. So many prized
left behind. When can I finally be lazy? If what we do is design
abstract houses we admire but can never quite be lived in, broken in without us
* Thomas Sayers Elis, Facebook comment, 8.21.2004
** Joseph Fontenrose, The Ritual Theory of Myth
*** Azzizaazzizamusic, Facebook comment, 9.6.2014