Two Poems by Brandon Cesmat

Fingertip Elegy

From where did the muddy tumor in our father's mind roll?
They first found nodes clustered like grapes in his lungs.

Surgery clears the seizures that landslide through his body,
but it also removes the keystone of his brain.

His smile dissolves like adobe brick.
Food rolls into his mouth, a bay at high tide

He scars his voice with apologies.
To my brother and mother he messiahs his mind.

The doctor scans the stairs of his body. The bones
become like wood grain with seams to split,

and the building blocks of his bones topple,
the web of his veins disentangles.

Into the front pew my youngest brother glides with the sin of anger.
Our mother fingers the small hill beside the boy's spine.

People he key holed applaud the triumph of mud, a choir slides forward,
and I play "Amazing Grace" on a stone piano in our iron ritual of grief.

The Conference

"About your poem it's good
as far as it goes, the car and
all the people," she told me.

"Where could it go?" I asked.
Though my time was nearly
gone we knew I had two

minutes more before
her next student. "In
the bad old days,

we would say that
it is 'hollow' in the
Hemingway way."

I picked up her words and
listened for the fullness
of my heart, the relentless

rushing of blood throughout
my body; instead I found
the hollow sound of my blood

flowing across my ear drum,
not two beats, but a snare
rolling hollow beneath skin.

After the conference, I thumped
the cage of my ribs that hold
my full heart and my hollow

lungs. Perhaps literature is not
as someone said, "opening a vein and
bleeding on a page," bringing

the inside to the outside.
Perhaps literature is breathing
and escaping the cage, so

the hollowness we hear
is the resonant distance
between my voice and your ear.

Brandon Cesmat