Nickole Brown


Lift your light. Lift your two dollar ten cent light to us, Señor De Los Angeles, your crayon red gel candle, your sticker with sword and scales and black demon under your gold-sandaled feet, Michael, a painted circa 1975 Michael, looking like a Ken doll in Rome.

Lift the light we just lit, Michael, ceremoniously with a Zippo, Michael, because even the poor need ceremony, the candle burning dangerously close to dingy sheets and braided legs and wide, wild hair.

Michael, show us which way, all this yearning for one another, show us the way

through the cathedral, we've never been, Michael, churches you know so well, we're waiting to enter from outside, show us how to tolerate the snow, our tennis shoes not made for winter, such slippery ice, such a stone path, the hostas dormant, the stars stark. Pretend we are choirboys, Michael, castrated sopranos for you, our throats bared for you, and it is our job to make Christmas mass beautiful.

We are shielding the light, Michael, our boyhands cup the flame and our thin, flammable choir robes blow, frankincense smoke swinging ahead. Won't you let us in?

Lift it, Michael, we are lost, we are poor, we don't know better. Rest your tired heel, Michael, the barracuda is dead, it is crushed on the pier, hook still in its mouth. Bed down

with us, Michael, it is time to rest, because all of this: the sheets, the snow, the smoke, the fish, its blood, all of this is in the taste of our mouths, our tongues pressed to your pretty feet in prayer.



Her breathing is winged and deep. If she lets you, put your hand over the fence to her nose to feel the cannon-sized ball of air in your palm. If not, stand back and listen. With your eyes closed, that exhale could belong to a dolphin swimming alongside your boat, the slick gray spout opening with a burst of spray.

She could live to be fifteen, but she'll be slaughtered by two after reaching about 1,200 pounds, just the right size to fit her marbled flesh perfectly inside a box to be stamped with a blue stamp and shipped across a blue sea.

She must give birth before she gives milk, but don't worry: the farmers are good Jews. Even Christ's cup and plate were separate vessels passed around the table, keeping the body we eat and the body we drink from segregated and holy.

From her gelatin, we get photographic film. Imagine: we take a snapshot of a dolphin breathing, the fin cresting the same waves where the shipment of her flesh floats and sways.

Under a full moon, her white face floats like a ghost. Her head, decapitated by the dark, is an insomniac of cud and chew, ceaselessly worrying the grass. If she knows little of the expanse of this field and nothing of time, why? She cannot chew enough.

Her tongue is cat-scratch dry, salt-searching, scared. A farmer tells you she prefers wet grass, to make washing it down that much easier, and you think of sacrifice, how humbly she drinks the rain.



"Saint Michael of Valu-Mart":
This is about a candle, a little Mexican supermarket candle, lit in hopes that an old friend of mine would find his voice again.

"Some Facts About A Cow":
This was written after falling a little in love with a Holstein cow in Amherst. I spent six weeks there at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and found that after a while the cows came straight up to the fence to greet me as I walked past to my studio. This one particular beauty liked to be scratched behind the ears. She had a deep green smell, and when it was pitch-black outside, her white face hovered ghostlike in the dark.