Sunday, October 16, 2011

Four New Poems by Brad Liening

My Spirit Animal

My spirit animal is your mucky lake,
your sick duck.
Cellophane cell phone
battery barf stringing the reeds.
Your grandchildren will weep
if the people of the future
still do things like that.
Maybe they just gnash their teeth and moan.
Maybe they just drool.
What good is a firecracker
when the cyborgs are all lining up
on the gorgeous dais
to show us just who
the boss is around here?
I know how this movie ends:
the beautiful people
slink off to glory in small,
sequel-related victory
and reproduce (not that
we get to see that part),
while the rest of us
are sent deep underground
to labor in silicon mines
and plot our resistance.
Run through with our own antennae,
atrophied language skills
impairing our ability to think creatively
so it looks like it might be a while.
It’s dark down here, indeed.
Poetic justice demands our suffering.
The split world maintains
we had it coming.

Manifest Destiny

Killer ants are overrunning our town.
They sink what we imagine to be tiny fangs
beaded with tiny drops of poison
into our ankles and arms,
our necks while we sleep.
We’re only guessing here,
since a lot of scientists
have already been bitten and no one
else wants to get too close.
The mayor turned blue,
the deputy comptroller exploded.
There’s a spate of ugly suicides.
Celebrities form a committee to raise awareness,
and we’re told of massive donations.
Parents are on morning television shows
discussing the dangers killer ants pose
to teens and other humans.
Don’t play the killer ant game, they warn.
A whistle stop tour conducted
by a prominent politician has included our town.
We have been lifted to national consciousness
by the tiniest of creatures,
and slowly things begin to change.
Our mailman received a Guggenheim
and next week I will be in a fashion shoot,
draped in a tunic of artificial killer ants
under a giant killer ant moon.


Everything here seems somehow
to be about you: the triptych

depicting melting ice,
steam hissing from a pipe,

all of it tagged and inventoried.
The inventor of the in-flight safety video

is your distant cousin,
he’s here in person explaining

to the crowd what to do
in case of sudden loss of pressure.

The last time you two spoke
you swore to speak again soon.

Who put this together? you ask
but everyone has put on headsets

for the guided audio tour,
and they all silently look at you.

So you do the only thing you can do,
which is appreciate the exhibit.

Here’s a big book in which
your name doesn’t appear.

A heap of potatoes
and a feeding tube.

A film about a
trip to the moon.

Forced Hand
      after a song by Much Worse

We’ve been let down.
Fish gills scummed with muck,
prohibitively expensive baseball games.
The poetry section at the bookstore:
how sad.
Can we ever get back
to the lobbed bombs
of liquored up flowers?
Not in this dirt.
Not in our current climate
of wild and severe swings, snow settling
into the opening tulips
and coating the confused bees.
I was just making up that last bit anyway.
Budget talks fail.
That rubble is the road.
Some crumpled cardboard is sold
to the local art museum for a million.
No joke.
Our lame prospects get much worse,
our only silver lining
in the cable coverage
of teary politicians doing their honest best,
the beautiful young royals trading narcotized smiles
in berserk flashbulbs,
more reminders than
I can forget about in my sleep,
in my repetitive, punitive dreams.
Their shoes cost more than my rent.
Their lapel pins cost more than the hot air balloon
I could buy to take me far,
far away from here,
someplace I can’t
even imagine.

Liening is the author of Ghosts and Doppelgangers (Lowbrow Press) and several chapbooks. He's an editor at InDigest Magazine and can always be found at