Poetry of Brendan Constantine



This week’s Poetry Corner features the work of Brendan Constantine, a poet based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, The Cortland Review, and other journals. His collection, “Letters To Guns,” was released in February from Red Hen Press.

Fall Memo
Please be aware of the following students and their sensitivities
Miranda R.    peanuts, common wheat
Lucas P.    dogs, strawberries
Kimmy D.     aspirin, penicillin, rhubarb
Alexis M.    trees, grass, sunlight
Hilary M.    gift soap
Bethany M.    old skin
Jennifer K.    wool, cotton, anything yellow, anything
Cody R.     cuttlefish, handshakes, eyeteeth
Dylan H.     the mere mention of hornets
Brandon L.    foam pillows, roach motels
Susan W.    Indians, music, Indian Music
Lauren B.     twice sealed letters
Grace J.    candles, perfume, party sounds over water

The Things
The things I gave you—Victorian postcards, 
a wind-up bird, the marzipan skull from Mexico
—don’t recognize me

When I come to visit, Buddha slouches 
in his ashtray, the wind mobile chimes 
among itself  
What have you told them

In my room, your picture looks me in the eye
I don’t know who it’s seeing

The things you gave me—a cup, a compass, 
the tiniest flashlight—are all about going
What do I tell them

Even now, your music waits in the car

Cold Reading
It’s really cold in here now,
easily forty below something,
and half the class is asleep.

Snow dazzles in the windows,
makes a cake of each desk.
It’s really cold in here now.

I’ve been lecturing on the same
poem for twenty six hours
and half the class is asleep.

I want them to get it. I start
to talk about death again
and it’s really cold in here now.

One student has frozen solid,
her hair snapping off in the wind
and half the class is asleep.

“See that” I say, “Lisa gets it.”
But it’s so cold in here now
half the class are white dunes
shifting to the sea.

My love,
you have the right to remain
silent. Anything you say
can and will be recorded
in my pillow. If you desire,
you may request a transcript
of every crushed feather.
You have that right, too.

and understanding these
rights as I sing them,
are you willing to answer
without a moon present?
Put your hands in the air
and walk toward me.
Tell me what you know.


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