À La Carte: Pinson Valley

Summer of the three-cylindered engine,
weeks spent thumping the wheel to tinny songs
with a revolver stashed in my trunk.

Johnnie on Snake Hill, pouring gas
on the armrests of an old recliner, setting it on fire,
watching the polyester open like a sore.

Off 280, river scum lapping over rocks,
their gray faces stained long after the water unbroke
its sidle. Crawdads halving minnows like loaves.

Some days, us boys would go before work,
strip down to our underwear below the chugging
overpass and its spray-painted columns:

Kevin loves Trina. POW MIA. Life in exile.
We’d ease past the rusty cot, its legs sunk into the bank,
and wade in. Popsicle sticks and mosquito eggs

charming the surface. The water paid no mind.
Only haloed our shoulders with algae thick as tar.
Suspended us in its mouthful of secrets,

idling until we dragged ourselves out.
We crawled up to the mildewed boots of double-wides,
delivered pizzas to the Harley shop and Batteries Plus.

We pushed into black-walled rooms to scream
at cracked cymbals and guitars. Kickflipped over hell
in the Church of Christ parking lot at midnight.

We took another class at Jeff State. We pissed on anthills.
Sat quiet in the living room when another father died.
We tied off the hose while the whole field was eat up with flames.

We spit dreams in ditches. Lit firecrackers
and felt the sparks greet our fingers like rain.
We aimed at our shadows and waited for them to drop.


Brandon Jordan Brown is a former PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, winner of the 2016 Orison Anthology Poetry Prize, a scholarship recipient from The Sun, and a former PEN in the Community poetry instructor. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Grist, Winter Tangerine Review, Scalawag, Forklift, Ohio, Radar Poetry and elsewhere. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Find Brandon online at brandonjordanbrown.com or tweet him @brownbrandonj.

Photo Credit: Zachary Glassmith