Jeffrey Allen

the rules of brotherhood

Every car on the road tonight

forgoes its blinker for the chance


at godhood and us drivers

are too old to do anything


but stick thorns in our

thumbs, suck slow blood,


and make the music louder.

In a dark car slick with a rain-heavy


sky, we remember the rules

of brotherhood: For the cost


of the silver coating

our tongues, we can buy all the ammunition


we need for that inevitable

conversation about who


is hated more by the past.

Quick answer: yes, but


when we can no longer stand

the silence of realizing


we've been driving this stretch

of wet road for most likely forever,


our eyes will marble into old

Greek statues and our arms


will snap off like keys

in a lock.


train come by, motherfucker

the poet yells

this at his reading, as a train

tumbles by the living room,

shaking the rocks of us. if

you're lucky enough,

you don’t have to be good.

it’s top hat weather

under the tracks, and

a cure is stuck in the mud

beneath the horsecart,

picnicking in the shade of the past,

hidden under the cushions

on stepdaddy’s speedboat

as it floats alone in the river locks.

this is dog-walking sky color water glass lung belly

weather and even the polish woman who

watches to make sure i pull

all the dog shit out of her lawn

wonders why i don’t want kids.

i’m just so disappointed

in the potentiality of them, in their

thousands of letters, their inability

to purpose themselves.

i don’t want their grubbiness

evidenced in the lack of time

for laundry, for jacking off,

for the god damned dishes.

when the computer crashes,

i care like a piece of fruit cares

about going brown.

it’s weather like this we go driving

at night with the windows

down, seat-pissing in a storm

of clacking teeth-lined railways

and the champ-champ of unsnowing

boots. let’s a/c baby, let’s freon frenzy,

let’s animal-out, go poisoning,

get writhing and moaning in the woods.

the forest floor is an orgy

of mammal and shadow, the moon

has no face. in the back

of the car, margot yells at the wolves

to shut the fuck up, but she’s just

one more howl crossing a night

made of ghost feet. it’s headlight weather

and i pop

the trunk. all my old

band’s cds finally

fall out and crash into the road,

and we watch them turn to hooves,

blossom a little stampede. margot asks,

a penny for your thaws? for your

weather alphabet? for your train car centipede

and the movies that ruin words?

i turn off the engine and get all rhetorical

about still moving while in neutral:

do you know what an eyeball is?

i draw her face in its perfect

sepia-tones. we round without

a table, leave no milk for the cat,

and no one can rhyme a fruit bowl

to a chemo wig or play a whole game

of duck, duck, noose. i’m cheeky

because i hurt and no,

don’t worry, it’s totally cool dude,

let’s talk about you being

dead soon.

someday, i’ll get shoved hard

enough to stumble, and gravel

will taste like a fenced-in forest,

with branches growing through

the chainlink, just like the old joke

about the chickens on the roof of the fox

house. cluck cluck, motherfuck.

it’s mammal weather tonight,

a fur-lined fury, and i’m train-

ed to eat eggs with abandon,

but this is breast milk city, soy

bean shoulder shrug, and we’ve got weather

enough to look up

into the sky like a farmer

starting a sentence with it might.

we got stop and go pedals but

nothing for the in-between except

judgment. poor little foals.

let’s issue a recall on gravity,

the kicking out of stools. margot

majored in neck theory, with a minor

in sailor’s knots. i coasted

on brimstone and mountain dew, wrote

a book and moved to salem. witches burn,

bitches worm, and jesus christ ate

ten times as much as any normal man.

sin, sin go away; we can either pray

or kill the devil out of you.

the best part about

an infinite universe is that

everyone’s been aborted somewhere. imagine,

whole worlds free of your bullshit

attitude, johnny. i'm only a radio

station there, turned up in a car on a dark road

through a nameless forest with prairie burn

weather spilled across speartip skies.

you are there and you are there

and the tornados all live in canada

and margot will reach out with her long

healthy fingers and grab the volume knob

while every throat clears

itself of survivable doses of radiation

and shiny new rust and waits

for the part of the song that anyone

would wait forever for,

like a train.


JEFFREY ALLEN is the author of two chapbooks, bone and diamond (H_NGM_N Books 2013) and Simple Universal (Bronze Man Books 2007), and holds an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. His poems, reviews, and interviews can be found in or are forthcoming from Bodega, Forklift Ohio, Handsome, H_NGM_N, RHINO, smoking glue gun, and elsewhereHe serves as the Educational Outreach Coordinator for H_NGM_N Books and Poetry Editor forphantom limb.