This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Tyler Brewington. 

Calling the Water

That’s the phrase you use when it runs out

words by which you indicate your lost abundance

you’d like to exercise your right

to have it back, to say mine is used up

now I need yours

I need you to remember and accept

the provisions made for this

there is a storehouse

somewhere under a mountain, I need you

to flip the switch or open the gates or otherwise

do what you do when you bring it to me

And there follows a great many sighs

a great many complexities, a great shuffling, a rusty heaving

You get it

I myself am a tall drink of it

like most people born in the desert

my first experience of the divine came in the form of a fish

curling up at the sides, waving its red head and tail

in my palm where I had placed it as a way of asking

though I didn’t have to ask, it could and would tell 

that I was fickle, false, in love

often passionate, seldom dead

I grew, explored the interior

under the blanket with a flashlight

I craved benevolent indifference, I understood things

from outside could come inside me 

really kill around in there

interest in dolphins had given way to interest in men in foamed neoprene

many sex lessons buried beneath the sex pyramid

had more to do with death than with the problem

the problem of chronic scarcity

showtunes and other art I disliked

but would suffer in exchange for orgasms

I was thankful for labels

an abstracted vegetable floating in a white field

was exactly the feeling I wanted meals to evoke

a time of pure surface

I had faith in people

the way Earth has Moon

the way a cat’s named Kitty

the way god trusts me to know sin

and self-punish 

perhaps the limits of my erotic imagination are boring and predictable

but I will die grateful

for the adolescence I got to have offline

that pines sometimes obscured the view 

was entirely the point

perhaps it is all for the best

how the rose garden interrupts the deep creepiness

of the trees, how the gulch interrupts the city

once I stepped barefoot into something flyblown

it was a great lesson in inattention

a tent encampment and a discarded pair of pants interrupts

types of spinning: wet, dry, dry jet-wet, melt, gel

and electrospinning, and with these and a spinneret

you form multiple continuous filaments

that’s where extrusion fibers come from

the everlasting shittiest fabrics

many people don’t care to think much

about clothes, I’m sorry for them

I care a great deal about clothes

so much so that it’s strange I never learned to make any

money with which to buy them 

efficient and generous ways to provide them to people who need them

that’s real power

it’s embarrassing and painful 

how scary I am in the right outfit

moving with purpose into the forest

where I pick up a bundle of sticks

and shape the bundle into a beast

and breathe life into the beast 

and love and celebrate the beast

lead it burning and clacking into a heterosexual

wedding where people run screaming from horseradish

where I have been making small talk about water

because it is a distant and polite disaster

and aside from the thing with the beast

I’m not trying to bleach anyone’s coral

if you know what I mean

what I mean is that the magic of the box canyon

isn’t the echo, though that’s great

it’s amplification, not replication

you get the one good one 



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).