SELECTED POEMS

Download a pdf of Selected Poems of Bryan Borland by clicking HERE

IF YOU CAN HEAR THIS

If you can hear this

    

     you are the resistance

    

     you are the underground

there is static in the air

the connection isn’t stable

there is talk      no longer rumor

of iron walls and white curtains

but if you can hear this

     you are the resistance

get the books you love

you’ll need them more than ever

harden your right to memory

you’ll need that too

steel your body for the poison

and the antidote

if not bread and water

we must talk in the languages

of poetry and survival

if you can hear this

     you understand

 

we now must decide what to fight 

to protect first

who to hold closest

who to hide

 

whether to leave the art hanging

in the living room

or bury it for preservation

 

Originally published in If You Can Hear This:

Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration​

DIG

 

You want the dirt,

all the sin and tendon

you think are under these nails. I beg,

instead, forget ten years of my life.

Let’s redact the documents, change

the sheets on the bed. Draw lines

through names and dates. Relationships

are never linear. Let’s start, if we must

start, at the last end we know, the slime

of those boys we buried in the yard. Or start

the story in our middle, with two dogs

pulling us down this path, far enough along to

know we survive. Deep enough that

questions turn to statements.

What is a poet? What is a husband?

Forget there was a time we didn’t know

one another. Don’t ask

about candles of ceremony. What meals

were eaten from these plates.

If you must remember something,

remember this: I am a poet.

You hear I was a husband.

Or some form of that word

before I was your husband.

You had lovers, too. We bring

ink to this, books from other tribes,

societies whose languages had

nothing of what we are together.

Originally published in DIG

 

 

 

 

MIRROR BOYS

 

My husband thinks of his own father’s chest

of knowledge and worries he doesn’t have the tools

to build a son into being. But I have seen his hands pull

beauty from the barren, roses and stray dogs brought

back to life by the gentle rains from his brow. I know

some day he will make our boy smile by telling of how, before

the animals ever dreamed him, we chose clothes for his unborn

body in a department store, or of the afternoon in the water

park when we pointed at families swimming and invented

his knees. I remember our flight from Boston through a storm,

how he held my hand and asked about my childhood to grant

my mind clemency from the rocking cabin. We were still

stubborn then, getting to know each other, embarrassed

to show the other a single flaw. After an emergency

landing in Texas, I refused to get on another plane and

rented a car to drive the five hours home. He promised to stay

awake next to me but fell asleep against the passing fields,

exhausted from keeping a hundred-ton machine in the air

through will and love for me. My husband worries he will not be

a good father. I fear turbulence and runway fires, everything

that could go wrong. I do not fear nights when our son will cry.

I’ve heard the songs my husband will sing. I rest easy. 

 

Originally published at The Good Men Project

& published in DIG

 

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS ON
HOW TO APPROACH
THE BEREAVED

 

Do not dance around

the dead elephant in the room.

 

Do look over your words in the mirror

and remove the last sentence

before it leaves your mouth.

 

Simplicity is always best.

 

Do look them in the eyes and say

I’m sorry for your loss

 

and

 

Please let me know if you need anything

 

even if

you secretly hope

they won’t.

 

Originally published in Less Fortunate Pirates

 

 

 

MEMORIAL DAY

 

It is Memorial Day again. The neighbors

fly a flag from their front porch. Our family

visits, my in-laws, my mother. And it dawns

on me I no longer can use the word parents

in the present tense. These are our holidays

now. My husband cooks hamburgers

on the new grill. The onions I chop for salsa

sting my eyes. When it is time for dessert,

I put out too many bowls, one too many

spoons. After the meal, we play badminton

in the backyard. As the sun goes down,

I clean the grill before the charred meat

sticks to the grates. It is the beginning

of summer. I smell like a grown man.

 

Originally published in Less Fortunate Pirates

 

 

 

 

SONS OF ABRAHAM

 

My grief grows with the years. I count

seventeen Octobers come and gone,

 

imagine a green-eyed boy

with hair the color of straw,

 

wooden walls sturdy on branches

long since chopped and used

 

for firewood. The older I get,

the more aches and pains: a nephew

 

and a treehouse, these things

my brother would have made.

 

Originally published in My Life as Adam

 

 

 

 

FLAWED FAMILIES 
IN BIBLICAL TIMES

 

They’re wonderful now

but when I told them I was gay,

 

my mother demanded God’s reasons

for striking her grandchild-bearer dead,

manly loins fertile and righteous impeded

by my barren inclinations, her last straight hope

zooming past as she traveled

the stages of grief from the passenger seat,

my future like a tornado-ravaged town

with collapsed houses on the bodies

of grandsons and granddaughters,

crumpled white picket fences

wrapped around the dead who

looked like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.

 

My father took the proactive approach

and said if I tried I could find a butch woman

with a mustache or a petite little thing,

small-chested, like a freshman,

he could coach me around the bases,

close your eyes, son, and you’ll never know.

My grandpa spoke of it

with the hushed words of a repressed war memory,

I was Hitler, I was Mussolini.

He saw me in grotesque scenes with a fat man and a little boy,

pink triangles lost on his sensibilities.

I was Hiroshima aftermath to his peacetime America,

pacific-rim foreign on toes farm-kid strong,

the flag at the post office flying half mast while

taps played solemn and survivors wept. 

 

My grandmother didn’t change at all,

stringing me out with sugar and butter creamed together

until I saw visions of her worshiped in another time,

a one-named siren in a bar surrounded by my people,

dirty jokes and colored hair,

God you would have loved her.

She said homosexuality is genetic,

a decadent recipe passed down to

diabetic queens of the family.

I never went hungry.

Thank you, Grandma.

 

I still wonder what he’d say, my brother,

who arranged my GI Joes in sexual positions,

who explained biology

with pornographic magazines,

who knew before anyone but left

before I could truly make an appearance.

When we’d play hide and seek as children

I always ended up in the closet.

 

He would help me out gently.

I think it was a sign.

 

Originally published in My Life as Adam

 

 

 

RECALLING A LAST
CONVERSATION

BETWEEN FATHER
AND SON

 

I am angry at myself for not

staking his words to my hollow chest

so that these spaces of excavation

and mental archaeological digs

would hold more artifact. We talked

for five minutes, joking about

mortality and the missing spines

of politicians. The rest,

I’m not sure, layers scraped away

by the trowel of sleepless nights,

dreamlike words hanging

like dust in my throat, as reliable

as the stories we give to bones

found buried in the sand.

 

Originally published in Less Fortunate Pirates

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON

In the early fall
I walked down the sidewalk

across from the obnoxious hotel

in a city where the monuments are smaller

than the history they carry. Earlier I’d asked

the cab driver if he ever gets used to the enormous.

This was the refrain of the tour:
Are you complacent to this beauty?

What do you still see?
Are you stopped by the way the light falls on the marble

the red of the dirt the blooming oranges on the trees

in the middle of your day your business as usual?

The hotel I think was the only ugly

thing I saw all fall the gilded palace with

surname as brand.

. . . When you’re a writer

I told the audiences along the way

you’re the brand it’s your story

you’re the story sometimes I don’t

even read the manuscripts before I say yes

that’s the secret that’s the trick and the truth

it’s the writer it’s the person who makes me feel

the hope of creation what bridges

does your story build who’s waiting on

the other side to walk across to feel the connection

who feels like a monster who feels alone

whose stories will intersect your own . . .

 

In November I have to remind myself of this:

Bryan, Bryan, Bryan: If there’s a separation

build a bridge.

If there’s a palace

be the hammer and the spray paint.

If there’s a wall

be the hands that tear that fucker down.

 

Originally published in Tourist

 

 

 

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