Poetry by Julian Talamantez Brolaski

we who walk four ways

I said it was an amateurism
thrum of the season
insofar as the octopus came upon the
hand I held for it
scutwork and heartsilch manor
and I get a feeling for the bloom cycle
of the eucalyptus
like the sparrow w/ its precocial young
hatched ready for action
I purse my lips to concentrate the color
of the note
practiced a pitch
higher than I wanted to sing
cuz it’s always easier
to lower the stakes
we who walk four ways
off a cliff which gives way to a draw
filled miraculously w/
silten water
I don’t wait
till it settles to drink
after all pegasus was born
from the blood of the gorgon
and my moods dom me when I sing

dubious guru

of the field of death, only traces remain among the cypresses
my imagination was limited, but still I could see a bevy or
an arrangement of ten swans upon the water.
cruise control. I had a bike parked way out in the wilds of california.
swans don’t sing a song, I don’t think. I was on the east
coast where I might partly belong, wearing the shirt of a
19th century homosexual. if that is not too anachronistic
to say. I vowed to sit w/o judgement. and let what the dubious guru
called the ‘cooperative components’ of my life align.
many buffleheaded ducks went by, often ducking in the
water. what came first, the duck or the duck?
many things I wish to look up but I leave them be.
once I let go of my desire to know, it’s sort of relaxing
to dwell in the mystery. electric blue bandaid on my thumb
from where I cut it slicing too many
carrots at once. evidence of my impatience.
what one wants in a guru is absolute
union w/ god. which one may graze
the dapply garment of

‘tws awkward, but it fitted me

(Emily Dickinson)

the eucalyptus trees
I wanted to pull
the strips off their bark
I remarked to A on their
colors rose and sage,
a troubled grey, ochre
and cream in the sunnydee light it makes
me want to be a watercolor painter
that’s a lie A said and I laughed for it was
a lie. okay, it makes me want
to want to be a painter I said
seed in an envelope
on a boat it didn’t ask
to be brought here
the sky was scrubbed clean
as much rain as I
had ever seen in california
soaking the barks of the trees
the redwoods like sponges
and me in my hat
’twas awkward, but it fitted me
during the days I hid in the woods
I hadn’t tried to stay anchored in any one image
nor had I tried my hand at painting

I sang a song of love

I sang a song of love
it was a dirge
not that love was dead
but let’s be real it wasn’t
in full flower
all night a hard rain
fell. it was ‘gnarly’
a word my surfer relatives used
for anything intense
waves were often gnarly
and this was a good thing
but the gash you got
from being dashed on the reef
by that same wave was also
gnarly. w/ a hey and a ho
the wind and the rain
shakespeare said, the rain
it raineth everyday.
‘dear wounds and freezing fires’
sidney wrote, to translate love’s
petrarchan feeling
which is also a poetic one,
of opposites reconciled.
it’s your cup, fill it
with whatever you want.
I sang a song of love
it was a dirge
not that love was dead
but let’s be real it wasn’t
in full flower
w/ a hey and a ho
the wind and the rain
the rain it raineth everyday
the rain it raineth everyday
the rain it raineth everyday

living gem

some of the fronds on the tree
were not even fronds to me
and the strips on the eucalyptus
obvious fodder for fire
despite the green beard on the face
of that redwood stump
and the crick that fairly roared
in my own unbearded face
tanner texts me a gif
of falling cherry blossoms tells me
there were no pernicious men
in the sauna today aiming
their peckers at them
the roaster at the cafe in phoenix
exploded but I first
read it as the rooster exploded
‘phallic birds are a hot topic’ they wrote
I thought of the paradise bird w/ its two
curly tails and how I once used pomade
to curl the ends
of my braids in imitation.
I’m on fire you say when you’re burning up
w/ desire. bruce springsteen’s throaty voice.
those palm fronds, fuel in potentia. ragged
strips hanging off my heart

a thousand joys and a thousand sorrows

juice of the prickly pear
stirred in w/ tequila
on the rim of the grand canyon
at the golden hour
and the whole of a nearish mountain on fire.
there’ll be no more snow days
the whole world is snow, fire
pungent honeyed jasmine interlaced
w/ reeking lilies
a thousand joys and a thousand sorrows is life
as the ancient poet said
or was it a philosopher L. quoted to me
in the lees, on the ley lines, on the beach
when I could sit on it, and I could lay on it betimes
and out of the cabbage patch of my plangent woes
arose a joyful rose, and in the onion of my soup
a playful cinnamon teased the tongue.
most mornings, coffee presented itself.
a patch of sun was there to be stood or sat in.
orion’s junk sagged predictably earthward
as if the heavens were beholden to our heavy
gravity. even the fool aguecheek was melancholy
whose brain was besot w/ beef. and the vegan supposed
they would eat of the lab-raised meat

Julian Talamantez Brolaski (it / xe / them) is a poet and country musician, the author of Of Mongrelitude (Wave Books, 2017), Advice for Lovers (City Lights, 2012), and gowanus atropolis (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011). Julian is a 2023-2024 Bagley-Wright lecturer, a 2021 Pew Foundation Fellow, and the recipient of the 2020 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry. Its poems were recently included in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2020) and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat, 2020). With their band Juan & the Pines, Julian released the EP Glittering Forest in 2019; Julian’s first full-length album It’s Okay Honey came out in August 2023.