Other excerpts from Brazil, Indiana have appeared in or are forthcoming from Alba, Clementine Poetry Journal, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Glasgow Review of Books, The Moth, Poetry City USA, Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday and Yellow Chair Review.
Brian Beatty’s jokes, poems and short stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including The Bark, The Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Conduit, Dark Mountain, Elephant Journal, elimae, The Good Men Project, Gulf Coast, Hobart, Juked, McSweeney’s, Opium, Paper Darts, Phoebe, The Quarterly, Rhino, Seventeen, The Southern Poetry Review, Sulfur River Review, Sycamore Review and Urthona. Brian’s writing has also been featured in public art projects and on public radio.
A native of Brazil, Indiana, he has lived in Minnesota since 1999.
Excerpts from Brazil, Indiana (a folk poem)
Every barn at some point becomes
nothing more than a metaphor with a roof
and a door straining against
its last hinge, like this old farmer bent
down to repair the truck tire flat in front
of the only world he's ever known.
Our small town ain’t small enough for him.
He tips back his hat brim to wipe away sweat
before more of it can burn (and blind) his eyes.
Should he still have a wife I imagine her
a remorseful porch song he plays on a banjo
as his dog howls obscenities at the moon.
Fathers taught their sons
to lie hunched over poker tables
in the basement of the Elks.
They smoked candy cigarettes, cigars.
The diabetic lodge dealer wheezed
under his breath between hands.
Mothers and daughters wearing
their finest dresses sat in silence
in the dark dining room upstairs.
The giant elk head with only one eye
peered down from above the fireplace.
Everybody was thinking about guns.
The shoes for rent at Brazilian Lanes
were sprayed inside with industrial
disinfectant you could smell
all the way out in the parking lot.
The bowlers and miniature golfers
(next door, until dark, unless it rained)
lighting up smokes by the flickering
neon of the palm tree sign by the road
were lucky (or at least fortunate)
to never once spontaneously combust
from the fumes — despite rumors
the alley’s owners once bought off a guy.
The boy introduced himself
to his brother from another mother
their first day of preschool.
the two were deftly pocketing pals’
Hot Wheels cars
to sell back to the fools later.
They didn’t care it was a crime,
but their teacher sure did. Parents, too.
By the time they started first grade
the friends were identical
in their scars.
The boy’s mother
tricked him into the big wooden box
of a moving truck one hot summer afternoon
so his schooling could resume
elsewhere. Bumping around
in the dark back there, he observed stars —
noticed, suddenly, the hairs
on his neck were damp with sweat.
The animals he heard,
he knew he imagined. It was just a truck.
The constellations did not actually twirl overhead.
In that way, it was his tomb.
Not long after the boy disappeared
against his own better judgment
his beloved non-blood twin went
to jail without a single tattoo.
Don’t bother reading into things.
Sometimes shit just goes south.
One turned blue holding his breath.
The other, inside, witnessed his first death.
All the scolds that had ever grown old
enough to know right from wrong
had a failed opinion they called the truth
spilling from their fat, rusted mouths.