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22 April 2015

Things in Light Poetry Series 2015: Brian Hendrickson

Samantha Anne Carrillo
by Samantha Anne Carrillo

Things in Light, the self-proclaimed nuevomexicano arts & culture blog with the mostest, is psyched to feature Brian Hendrickson's work in our 2015 poetry series. Already an award-winning poet, Hendrickson is currently engaged in postdoctoral studies in rhetoric and writing at UNM. He is passionate about the role that writing plays in activism and social movements. His debut book of poems, Of Small Children / And Other Poor Swimmers, was recently published by Swimming with Elephants. Today on TIL, we proudly present one poem from Of Small Children and three as-yet-unpublished works.


Because you can’t just shoot every last thieving politician in the back of the head;
Because it’s illegal, sure—but also because they’d probably just grow new heads;
Because when you told her you sometimes wished you had the balls to do this, some small bird escaped from the delicate cage of her voice, and she stopped asking you if all the dark hair in your poems belonged to her;
Because regardless, a busload of vacationing mechanics disappears in Acapulco;
Because regardless, a Jewish settler in a Subaru runs down two Palestinian boys for throwing stones;
Because regardless, Hutu rebels gang-rape nearly two hundred women and children over a four-day period in the village of Luvungi—among the victims, three baby boys;
Because sometimes you just know—you know, and she knows, and they know—you all know you know;
Because in the words of your father, not a one of you may any longer be excused from the goddamn table until you’ve finished all your goddamn vegetables;
Because she no longer calls you, yet you still have something to say;

Your poems like your wishes still carry her dark hair in one hand, and in the other, a gun.

Calling All Psychopomps

The reapers of tongues are harvesting all
The daylight you ever tasted—you whose words
You fished from brighter bodies than the sun—
Who have lowered your crane bags into rivers
Dark as a stranger’s history only to hoist them
Brimming with stars—who know the precise
Glint of each vowel your fathers gutted,
Each consonantal ripple in your mothers’
Twirling dresses. Once. Watch out. The engineers
Of tongues are rerouting the blood your children
Read to know what’s hidden below the labels
Stitched across their skins. Soon yours
Will be the story the scribes of tongues
Forget to anthologize. Soon you will not
Even recognize the wings on your own heels.
Hence of you there are those who will be drawn
Out ever onto rickety protrusions of rust
And splintered wood sagging low where cattails
Give to current, which is nothing if not what you were
Taught to share with otherwise intransitive
Phases of the moon. Only will you then hone subtler
Demonstrations reminding, Check your pockets
For what you have perhaps forgotten you
Have that shines. When thereafter the butchers of tongues
Come glinting for your crane bag, you’ll best know
How to gesture. Gesture in every direction at once.

If the Missing Appear in Dreams: A Partial Response to Theodore Roethke

I hear a sound at night. I wake up.
I look through the window and there is nothing.
– “Chechnya's long wait for the disappeared
to return,” BBC News, 16 July 2011

If the missing appear in dreams they are not dead,
Chechens say. Oil-dipped, one wick-end sleeps,
So feeds the fire burning in its head.

The day is a cadaver. Go to bed
Where life is more than your imagination leaks.
When the missing flood our dreams they are not dead.

Forget the lowly worm. Its curse. No messages embed
The corkscrew tunnel that it creeps.
You’ll find no fire burning in that head.

Whereas we wake, then bring ourselves to say what must be said:
The secret told us by the company sleep keeps:
Because the missing speak our dreams they are not dead.

Last night my friends all came for dinner, bringing bread
That, broken, cried out like baby birds. The cheeps
Still glow like dying embers in my head.

This wick is braded from our wishes, intended
To reach the basin of a common lamp full and deep
Enough to feed forever fires in our heads.
To gather the missing to this dream. To raise the dead.

After Hayden Carruth

. . . all these poems over the years
have been necessary – suitable and correct.

From cruelty, injustice, already so
Many unflinching poems.
Jeffers’ purse seine, Jarrell’s
Ball-turret gunner, Baraka’s black
Fists black daggers black teeth.
Forché’s colonel. Rich’s wreck.
Rocewicz’s old polish woman with
Her pitiful goat forever casting us
Terrible for doubting, or worse:
Forgetting, occupied as we are
Wearing masks: adult, cynical, though
Nevertheless whittled with words honed on
The whetstone of an adolescent urge
Refusing suffering, unreason—someone
Else’s; our own—punk songs
To which we can no longer sing
Along with abandon. All swimming
Begins with the same flailing and gurgling.
How I am guilty of such brash,
Incognizant anthems. Pound proclaimed
Most important poetry written after thirty—
The adult mind attuned to irresolution.
Then there is this: the books beginning to
Vanish from their shelves again, this time
In Tucson, where the superintendent
Prefers stories a particular kind
Of uncomplicated, and suddenly giving
The lie requires we offer our younger selves—
That of us still impertinent to complex
Ethical nuance—this truce: one archetypal
Image to embody: expelled student
Shrouded in the smoke of stolen
Fire and graffiti, head and hands forever
Empty of approved lesson plans,
Backpack perennially full of the knife-
Edged line breaks of every poem
Worth banning—Loki, Ananse,
Kitsune, Coyote, Kokopelli
Castrated no longer: god
And goddess at once, shape-shifter,
Ageless, unpredictable, endlessly
Dangerous—trickster, trickster
Whom we all once were,
Whom we all have been
Summoned upon to remember
How to summon once again.

Brian Hendrickson’s first book of poems, Of Small Children / And Other Poor Swimmers, is available now through Swimming with Elephants Publications. Brian's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a range of publications, including Indiana Review, North Carolina Literary Review, and New York Quarterly. For his poetry Brian has been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award, recognized as a 2013 finalist for Smartish Pace’s Erskine J. Poetry Prize, and awarded a 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for appearing in Beatlick Press’ La Llarona anthology. Since earning an MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage, Brian has taught and tutored writing at colleges and correctional facilities in Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, and now New Mexico, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing. Brian’s scholarship focuses on the role of writing in social movements and student activism.

Samantha Anne Carrillo / a fifth-wave feminist from the fourth estate | a burqueña | a ladyboss | a writer + editor

I am a fifth-wave feminist and a reluctant member⸺hey, Groucho knew whereof he quipped⸺of both the fourth estate and the gig economy. I am an Albuquerque-based freelance writer, editor and social media marketing and branding+PR consultant. I remain an observant ’90s riot grrrl and a devout practitioner of halfhearted yoga posturing and zen and the art of the sentence diagram.


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