The Pencil

The teacher and the dune
Joined at the pencil

A crystal lattice in the darkened wood
Wild rhubarb jostling a lover’s responsible letter —

You had to be loose said the philosopher
From inside the cataract

Male secretaries devoted to their hand; the soul
Apologizing as it tags its sheep

That lavender heart
Buckled to an arm




Small tubes and barrels beget
Technical work and general writing and rare
Diamond loot, oh the queen despised it
For it had failed to sparkle

Like the shag upon cedar groves
Of Sweden, two rings on a desk
Lost in Budapest
Looking back on one’s choices they form many rings

Many cloisters, a caption

The lining of the cannon

Or a recluse walking through rain to god
Who is growing the business —

Its name, the biggest in the world
Coming through an unknown cursive
Long-legged and inappropriate, a tulip
Mist or waveform symbolizing agony and water

The leftist balladeering on the corner

Your arms scooping up the apex
To throw it down on paper

— The murderous history and wooziest image
A shipwreck! Plumbago
White buckets of latex —

A mean gang hunched
Beside the purple undertones of plants




Had I learned my own name, a kind of learning
Love of all this shading
No figurines to ennoble the distortion
The bureaucrat tending to her columns
Ideas of sand or hair
And from my elbows I had a twinge like brightness
It became another badness
An unremarkable drawing
Of quiet clover from the shore

We gathered fire, excuses, laments
A bunch of blurry photos
Some arms some legs
A pressure rippled through our objects
I suppose we all had reasoned
What they were for

Collaborative Living

I never lived in the house I was writing about, I didn’t
have rituals. Was studious but without tribute. I couldn’t help
the past its deeper zones and practices, its elite visions.
And time was a friend, a rival. People struggled through the ratio —
what do you remember about it? There was a spirit

named Impudence to fall in love with. There were three potheads
out in the dark; there was a curtain tacked up as a door.
And within, the joy of amateurs. I didn’t have the basic information
so I invented myself as an artist’s lover. And the real
or its insinuation was somewhere beyond all that.

It was those things but it was these other things too.

There was a demon called Consequence the Extinguisher, I remember
her golden scarves. What was it like for you there?
It was sparsely attended. All the language was anonymous;
everyone was farmers or nurses. At night they sat on low futons.
There was something strange about the translucence
of individuals, what people said

to one another. The attic grew colder.
Could you identify the desolation? Many of us loved
the rural walks and the dead historian of science,
everyone filmed the present.

I played many games before she moved, before
I moved her. It was brave to arrive at the inner conclusions,
the hallways smelling of indeterminate spice when you left me.
Where did you go? There was a house of god

on the way, so that was special. And flowering weeds,
kids in the garden pulling wagons through dirt. I pressed against
the sliding glass door and the sun held me flat
as my shadow evolved. The balcony continued on
being condemned 8-12 years ago, I was younger
than anything you could say about me then

and from wingbacks they watched their computer
singing in Czech. Did you cohabitate wisely?
Once he shoved me into the bathtub. There was an idol
called Custom and this urged certain truths onward.
There were couches out front that used
to be beds.


It was a town and a factory
             town they came from, it was earth
in a regular way no longer. I moved
             Frances far from the river: can you see it
looking just awful. The yard booming
             new summer I took away the Vera,
irresolute at the edge. Ran the wrong summer,
             began the machine on the side of the water.
It was the character of apple, crab apple,
             mulberry, horse. The past a computer,
a wild computer. And two lights
             from the porch meaning song
or direct quotes. Disguised as a child
             I address you.

Like this Carl who’s rich
             and the cousins then poor.
Other cousins are rich. An uncle is dead,
          a Louise. Another brother’s cut off
but goes on living. There is that Viv, somewhere
             women advance. As the algae works
on itself, as the felicitous Raymond
             varies from poem to poem, ignoring history
and the state. In total ignorance
             of the cage inside the line,
the alternate arrangements
             of force. These circle me out —
the rich, the deformed.
             Alone I sat and thought of the Vern
who died in the field, not mine
             by the simple pronoun, not.
By the side of the town.

             The plentitude matched
only by dreams and creatures
             climbing that dream. Inserted there:
photo of one Harlan standing
             in the wagon adorning one wall.
The other presents a projection of ruin
             reunion return and the timber. Dwight
drove to the toxins and cried that the devil.
             The branch waved invitingly
over the pool. It doesn’t matter
             says each Eunice, about the chorus of
outpost and fable. Nothing matters
             but this program of weeds
with a Hazel inside
             the midcentury calling grace.

And Grace can’t be read,
             she’s unavailable then. Frances can’t
be assumed to exist or hover
             despondent in oil, that
era. The cloud turns a new series
             of moments from underneath, extending
the river, the table of everyone
             sitting there, all the plastic.
I tried to get dressed, to walk
             into town. It wasn’t charming
to cover the box with gardens.
             How could I say it
in this age of improvement
             that I decayed, that Carl?

From the gilt frame Grace chooses
             to speak: the church had a face
it leaned out from. The trees
             were just fine in their light.
I thought it was more Vera, but I never
             wear skirts, I never understood
the reason for my face.
             The way it came up the road.
The lime green of the water and foam.
             The foam of her lips. Her face
in its church, there was fineness
             in the pronoun but it wandered.
Everyone bossed Kyle.

Hannah Brooks-Motl is the author of the poetry collections The New Years (Rescue Press, 2014) and M (The Song Cave, 2015). Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Cambridge Literary Review and West Branch. She lives in Chicago and western Massachusetts.