"Our heart is heavy with the loss of our good friend and Three Rooms Press poet Brant Lyon, who passed away this morning [May 12] after a brief illness. Brant was the author of You Are White Inside, a collection of his poems that was released in late 2011. He also produced and curated the popular monthly series Hydrogen Jukebox, which featured poets reading to live improvised music by the band The Ne'erDoWells. He recently recorded produced the cd Brain Ampin' which featured tracks by 12 of the regular readers at the series, including TRP founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes. Funeral arrangements are pending. A memorial will be held in June."
Brant Lyon's poems and YouTube video links included here were kindly provided by his friends, editors and publishers as a tribute to him.
Brant Lyon's Hydrogen Jukebox, vol.1 of 2
Brant Lyon's Hydrogen Jukebox, vol.2 of 2
Here are 2 dynamic tribute cable shows dedicated to the fond memory of poet and colleague, Brant Lyon, and his love of "poemusic" (the blending of poetry and live music).
Videos are now online via YouTube for all to enjoy and reminisce. The readings and performances are varied and entertaining.
Participants, in order, are as follows:
Vol.1 = Brant Lyon, Puma Perl, Karl Roulston, Kat Georges,
Frank Simone, Cyndi Dawson, David Lawton,
John Marcus Powell and Farid Bitar.
Vol.2 = Thomas Fucaloro, Jane Lecroy, Zev Torres, Jeanann Verlee,
Peter Carlaftes, Susan Scutti, Carol Lipnik & Spookarama,
Jackie Sheeler and Mitch Corber.
Videographer for Hydrogen Jukebox
Director-Camera, Poetry Thin Air
Poetry: Larissa Shmailo (Magpie translation of Joseph Brodsky's poem "New Life" ) / Music by Brant Lyon/ Produced by Jackie Sheeler http://soundcloud.com/larissashmailo/larissa-hydro1-1
Diamond Lil's sparkle never dimmed until
well past her prime, still refracting immortal
light as she dispensed ghostwritten advice
re: ESP and spiritualism, or the rejuvenating
virtues of bottled water, enemas and colonics,
positive thinking, indirect lighting, fantasy
and sex, that gave to the lie that goodness
had nothing to do with it.
Ravenswood, even the beach house, kept
shuttered from the sun's pernicious rays,
devoid of houseplants she claimed consumed
oxygen, but two un-housebroken macaques
given free range for monkeyshines, the muralled
walls depicting otherworldly golden phalluses,
disembodied testicles floating in air as though
trumpets in a seance, the opulence of her boudoir,
And all her other worldly goods would be to her
but a splendid pharaoh's tomb—vainglorious
dowry for no afterlife—were she unable to make contact,
re-bond, with her mother and father on the Other Side.
Mae made that long, anxious journey from Hollywood
to Lily Dale and sat in silent awe in darkened
psychomanteums and parlors, tables tipping uncannily
on their sides, or in charmed frenzy, danced,
An eerie rapping on the wall, raising the platinum
hairs on the back of her specter-white neck.
But of all the mediums that beckoned forward
the dearly departed from Summerland to that
'thin place', it was Jack Kelly, from whom sex appeal
oozed like ectoplasm, she had come up to see
(and not the other way around), and open her
heart to invite spirit inside as he cast a beam
Of supernal light on which she passed over to meet
the undead—Jack's gaze piercing through the veil
of disbelief or doubt, of disappointment,
unfathomed hurt, before the message delivered
from a somewhere she had long known but never
seen came through as he looked her straight
in the eye and asked with the innocence
of a child, "May I come to you?"
(Previously published and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in
Danse Macabre An Online Literary Magazine www.dansemacabreonline.com)
If day breaks, fix it.
If night falls, help it up.
When darkness gathers take in
the seam to smooth things over.
Handle with care: dawn has a crack.
Don't go looking for trouble,
it won't get lost.
A cloud no bigger than a man's hand
will find you.
Neither here nor there
comes to the same thing.
All other things being equal
two and two put together
doesn't always add up.
If you're at sixes and sevens
settle the score.
Chalk it up to experience
on a clean slate.
Silence is golden and
mum's the word
that means business.
Leave that cat in the bag
with the pig in a poke.
If the question goes begging
drop a few coins in its cup.
If the truth stands naked
give it the shirt off your back.
(There's no getting around it
when pride stands in your way.)
If it's not one thing or the other,
it's about time.
It flies or it drags or runs out
like money, which it is.
Spend them, save them,
make, waste, or lose them both—
it's still only one that makes
the world go round.
Nothing holds a candle
to the whole new ball of wax.
When the fat's in the fire
many a burning desire
has gone up in smoke.
If you hunger for more than
pie-in-the-sky eat your hat.
There's more where that came from
but that's another kettle of fish.
Or a horse of another color
put in back of the cart.
First things first: don't get
bent out of shape.
Keep your nose to the grindstone
and your shoulder to the wheel
while your head's above water
and both feet are on the ground.
Why not show a clean pair of heels and walk a mile
in someone else's moccasins?
Whenever you don't march
to the beat of a different drummer
the piper calls the tune.
Long story short: a tall tale
cut off at the knees.
Make your own song and dance short and sweet.
You catch more flies with honey
than vinegar, anyway.
If it's not sooner or later
it must be one of those days.
Lost the key to success?
Pick the lock!
The Big Picture
is yours for the taking.
The camera never lies—believe it or not.
(Published in the CLWN WR letter issue 10K reprinted from the Brownstone Poets 2010 Anthology)
Emperor Fu His imagined he
the marks of yin and yang
on a tortoise shell
and that is when the
Fifty yarrow sticks
four thousand seven hundred
thirty-three years later
still only four thousand
ninety-six ways to
There is the pain
The pain of
The pain of Doing
And the pain
of Not Not-Doing.
A whole wounded taxonomy—
finite binomial code of
yin and yang
configured in the Book of Change.
a lone table centered in the room.
the sage approaches
the I Ching is taken from its shelf
and placed upon that ominous plane.
kowtows once more—
Three times in clockwise
fifty yarrow sticks are
passed through the smoke of
is burned into his mind
emptied of all else.
A single stick
culled by chance (passive
to what the rest portend)
the ancient arithmetic begins…
(Published in the Brownstone Poets 2009 Anthology)
navy and black
(Published in CLWN WR 46)
Was it with your blood or mine
you painted that sliced watermelon into
which the words, "Viva la vida", are carved?
They may as well have been gouged from
the flesh of el panzòn, my immense belly.
Without you, dear Frida, I, too, have
painted halved watermelons: a still-life,
for it's as though my life was taken when
you took your own — was the leaving
joyful as you had hoped?
It seemed so. Our comrades and I
watched in amazement as your body
bolted upright from a blast of
the furnace, your hair, burst into flames,
a blazing nimbus.
Your lips parted as if you were smiling.
Had you finally outgrown me,
mi querida Tehuana, becoming Xipe Totec
shedding your skin?
Perhaps only the Party, the embrace of
all men, not one, could contain
your illimitable yearning in the end.
Yet life imposed its brutal physicality too
much upon you for you to find refuge in dreams.
Fateful betrayals of broken vertebrae and bone
Eloesser's scapel surgically incised, and your
wild heart caged within a torso cast of plaster,
would be the base of its ultimate alchemy:
each retablo a crucible for the transmutation
of pain brushed on tin.
I am not a surrealist, you said. I paint my life.
(From Dinner with the Muse (Part I)…The Anthology of the Green Pavilion Poetry Event)
St. Louis, Missouri, 1899
'Honest John' Turpin,
his brother Tom, Louis Chauvin…
They all dere at the Silver Dollar Saloon
huddled round de corner table
thick as thieves.
A fancy dan slips in through
'the family entrance'
and Madame sends a girl over.
We have company now, and need a professor.
Seven high. Deuce low.
Mr. Joplin hand hold a tiger
so he fold, and gits up to git down
ticklin' the ole eighty-eight.
Bass chuggin' like a piston
set the floorboards a-buzzin'
an' de john's feet to tappin'
whilst de melody flirts wid de beat—
rushin' fowad, layin' back,
rushin' fowad, layin' back—
dart like a mayfly on de river,
firs' dis way 'n' dat.
Chippie raise her skirt jess above her knee
an' dance the hootchie-kootchie.
Sport be chucklin' to hisself,
This sho ain't no cotillion cakewalk!
Now Mr. Joplin, he a cut above
de rest o' dem honky-tonk professors
at Mother Johnson cuttin' contests acrosst de street.
He'll shoot out a two-step or lay down
the sixteens with a zig-zaggin' jag
picked on a jig piano
that'll put dem other march kings to shame.
Still 'n' all it ain't no picnic.
A man gotta win his bread somehow.
He got no truck wid
coonjinin' roustabouts at de levee camp
moanin' the blues.
No party t' de hokum
of the minstrel shows.
Mr. Scott Joplin a gentleman.
He gonna write a opera.
He the king!
he write The Maple Leaf Rag.
(Published in the 2010 anthology Beyond the Rift: Poets of the Palisades, The Poets Press, 2010, Providence, RI.)
Anatomy is destiny.
Analogies decide nothing,
it is true, but they can make
one feel more at home.
More insinuation than accusation,
the cloud of smoke that lingered overhead in
the stale air of the solarium—
But what of the stink that has clung to
his beard for more than forty years?
No nurse has come to halt the primary process
of his first postoperative perfecto.
Its phallic tip snipped ceremoniously,
as though a brismdash;that the image came
to mind bothered him.
One thing to deliver genial speeches at
B'nai B'rith (the lodge never suspected
an enemy within), quite another were Martha
to light shabbat candles—verboten!
Yaweh is but a substitute for father;
as any object, orally fixated on, is replacement
for the breast; as
a good Havana—well…
He would be the Moses to lead his
people out of the wilderness of
guilt and motivation, except his gods were
several and had Greek names: Oedipus,
Eros, Thanatos, the last at whom
he shook his fist now more than ever.
No nurses had properly attended him after
the first jaw surgery, either; they had gone
home for lunch, and he was left bleeding
all over his clothes until Anna came.
How he needed his daughter
even more than his wife, for those sixteen
years since, an unbroken cathexis between them.
She, more than Martha, knew of the irrepressible
craving the 'tissue rebellion' in his mouth
sought to defend against, mounting its malignant
reaction formation, then of the dolor
of 'the monster'—ill-fitting prostheses that
had eventually replaced his entire right mandible.
Sometimes a cigar teetering on the lip
of an ashtray would roll onto his desk and
burn a hole into the blotter before he noticed.
Sometimes a cigar was clenched between
his teeth as he sat in silence behind
the couch, psychic pain freely associating,
his own compulsion bullying his
superego twenty times each day.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,
he would say.
(Published in the 2010 anthology Beyond the Rift: Poets of the Palisades, The Poets Press, 2010, Providence, RI.)
All night they sit and spit out bean husks
sucking their teeth between sips of beer.
My clean-nailed khawaga hand wipes the table
clean of their flimsy. They think me queer.
Just to show I'm not incapable
I spit likewise. I won't be brushed
aside. Husks fall to the floor like cartridge shells.
I am not uncouth; I am American.
I do as they do for now.
In the hour of the wolf when Romans said
babies come and nightmares howl
they'll press cell phones to their heads
stumbling out onto the squalid midan
and salute, Ya bashi, sabah al kheir!
The slump-shouldered waiter they call The Crab
pries off the last bottle cap with his teeth.
His burbling father spills over, Boosh! Boosh! Iraq!
Leans back in his chair and seethes
beneath a yellowing framed photograph
of Anwar Sadat. I fidget, picking at a scab.
The Crab's soft murderous claw refills my glass.
He stacks the chairs up against the wall.
The sun smears blood across the sky at dawn.
His father counts that night's take.
He owns the place. His face is drawn.
The Crab sweeps around me, fakes
a smile for shock and awe. For after all,
I am a fun-loving Yank and can stomach anything.
(Published in the Brownstone Poets 2011 Anthology)
Not envy, exactly—too many miles and years
between you and not familiar enough to chafe
your soul in rivalry, I thinkmdash;more a shadowy pang
of if only swept across your face like a cloud
passing over the sun on an otherwise cloudless day
looking down on the deck of the tug where
Tom McDevitt and his boy fastened ropes to the dock,
squinting up at you, not really bragging, just saying,
Sure she's mine; the smaller boat's my brother's,
and we've got four others, too. You dropped names
to discover who had stayed behind, and Tom pretended
he knew who you were, though it was only
the names of your big Irish family that he recognized
(each infamous in your own way, you explained).
By then, the late afternoon sun
was casting long shadows on the cool Kelly green
grass of the field that dipped like a cupped palm or a cradle,
nestled between the woods and the houses where
you used to play ball and the kids were playing ball
now, as you watched, briefly. Let's stop by
your old friend, Liz Lyons, I suggested;
but she died years ago in Mass Gen. Some tropical disease
I presumed, recalling her Peace Corps mission
in Burkina Faso back when it was called Upper Volta,
and the time we moved boxes of books from
her third floor walk-up in Charlestown, wondering,
What does a freckle-faced redhead do in Ougadougou?
Not malaria or blood flukes or yellow fevermdash;something
stateside and mysterious. Her mention reminded you
of Colinmdash;your teenage crush on drop-dead beautiful
killer charm Colinmdash;who crashed through the wooden railing
of the Allerton causeway driving home drunk
just a few years after you saw him with some older man
at Provincetown, at the time thinking, Aha!
I should have known all along.
He wouldn't like it now, anyway, you supposemdash;
the town taken over by dykes with buzz cuts and body piercing
everywhere. It was always windy like today growing up here,
you said, looking off toward Boston Harbor.
I thought, It's still chilly in the shade—isn't reminiscence
better left to summer's end?
(Published in BigCityLit, June 2003)
Women in scintillating saris the color
of a Himalayan sunrise, goat's blood,
or marigolds, float through fumes of car exhaust
and the din of taxi horns, silently padding
past the rickshaw drivers and motor scooters
stalled by a sacred cow that nonchalantly
plops a pile of dung onto the pavement
as it stands in the middle of Asan Tole.
Nearby the square the spreading trunk
of a bodhi tree has rent the sides of a tiny shrine.
Two teen-aged boys with the patience
and conscientiousness of men stand in the dusklight
outside the entrance to the Annapurna Temple,
with brushes like offerings to Mahadevi held
in their hands, re-painting the stone lions.
A fresh coat of enamel applied for the harvest festival
of Dasain shines off these paired sentinels;
one boy fastidiously colors each claw
on the paws of the lioness, while the other—
reverently, and without shame—paints
the tip of the lion's erect lingam red.
A man and wife with toddler sandwiched
in between pull up on a motorcycle.
The woman looks on as her husband removes
the miniature helmet from his daughter's head,
stands with his arms folded across his chest
at the temple door as she, unescorted, toddles in.
The image nestled in this squat room
has been smeared with vermilion paste,
festooned with flowers, and showered with rice,
as thus homage to the goddess of abundance
always has been paid for centuries upon centuries
She picks out a butter lamp and places it below the idol.
A temple matron with lines deeper than the Kali Gandaki
river valley etched in her face smiles as she exits.
The father lifts his little girl above his shoulders.
She reaches up and tugs the clapper of the huge bronze bell
whose peal reverberates into eternity.
(Previously published in Lullwater Review, Emory U., Winter '99; BigCityLit 2000, Jan 2001)
Brant Lyon was a poet, fiction writer, and musician. He was senior editor for Uphook Press and producer and host for Hydrogen Jukebox, a reading series in NYC where poets recite with an improvisational band. A collection of his poetry, You Are White Inside, published Fall 2011 by Three Rooms Press, is reviewed in the Fall 2011 issue of BigCityLit. He was a contributing editor of the magazine.