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Anyone Who Tells You Differently Works at the Motel -- poetry by A.E. Brown

The thing about this land is that it never gives you up, people whisper

Whether you’re a five second stranger in the Shell station

Or your ancestors rose from this cracked ground.

You catch the attention of oak root hands floating on the waves of the earth,

In the second grade we jumped over the gnarled fingers

As if they can’t pull you down on a whim.

Maybe that’s why

No women up here can find a mouth that tastes like southern sunshine, Los Angeles, golden sand

And fame,

Only like midnight swims in orange, moonlit obscurity,

Backstroke through solid things, bodies homes and trees

Reduced to viscous clouds of gray,

These people burned in their cars,

So I taste every one of them when I touch his lips, because we all share the story.

Crouching on the chapel lawn razed to the ground sprayed a poisonous green,

Far from the tangled oat grass we were made for,

We sat through the sanitized memorial to who they were, these strangers I know so intimately

Words intertwined in our books, as if God left the typewriter running.

My broken nails on his skin that drips with muddy creek water

I’m not special but he whispers that even diamonds have their flaws,

That mine and ours was being born.

Nobody wants us but journalists seeking a laugh,

Forgotten by the world, north of the cinema that draws moths like the flickering of my porchlight.

The cracked earth sinks under my feet bare and blistered,

They’re draining the aquifer and the underground is coming above.

Where do we go when there’s nothing left,

And why do five-second strangers turn to five-year familiars so fast?

They could be anywhere else with the fortune not to be built from this place.

I am not a diamond, maybe common quartz clouded by my own existence,

My broken nails on skin that drips with muddy creek water

Red tinged because muddy creek water is what runs in his veins,

Questions echoing in my skull as the heat rises,

Who gets left behind?


A. E. Brown is from Northern California. She draws inspiration from her locale and heritage, her experiences with her identity as well as the collective experiences of those around her. She believes written word is a critical component of activism and hopes to use her love of poetry to advocate for her community in the future, particularly in the areas of economic diversification and the prescription drug epidemic.

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