Burmese Girl on Richmond

long slender legs
close in on faux heaven

what boys wouldn’t give
to get there

what girls wouldn’t give
to be there

promise of a new land
promise of new love

mama’s lessons from Mae La
don’t work in America

refugee camps are for waiting
Buffalo is for living

© 2013-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Liberation Study

This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. It started as an observation on the bus from Tibas to San Jose, Costa Rica:

hanging wash
A crucifix (sic)
of weathered board and nails
supporting laundry line and laundry
a woman with clothes pins
either praising, surrendering, or hanging wash
16 October 1989

There was something about this simple image that stuck with me, but for years I couldn’t put me finger on. Over the last 2 years, I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about it, reworking it, and I think I finally figured it out:


Liberation Study

on the bus
a la universidad
we pass her out back
before the afternoon rains

a cross of weathered
board and nails
suspending line
and laundry
above hard-packed dust

clothespins braced
between her fingers and teeth
struggling against
billowing sheets

arms raised overhead
gathering bedding
survivor narratives
unfatigued, undaunted
even against the storm
of culture

gust, snap
surety of faith
gust, snap
liberty of submission
gust, snap
dignity of the maternal

the wind shifts
through her loose strands of pelo
and her floral frock
gust, snap
lifts the veil

surrendering, or
hanging wash

© 1989-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar


from its poison culvert
it enters Forest Lawn

running through
Olmsted’s sculpted ravine
undisturbed only here
not channeled
not tunneled
still flowing over 400 million
year old dolomite

at the top of the hill
above Serenity Falls
the Chief lay reposed
lullabied for eternity
by a gentle cascade

in Moffett’s Grove
two sunbathers
in appropriately
black bikinis
recline safely away
from the leer
of living men
with only male
finches and cicadas
within earshot

two miles downstream
Philip Kenjockety
lived creekside with his family
just northeast of the trinity

delta, Black Rock, and island
sanctuary they said
for birds and spirits

by his Seneca name
“Beyond the Multitude”
the creek would later be called
famed panther hunter
the refugeed grandson
of the vanquished Kah-Kwahs
whose father came to lead
the conquering Seneca

the site of the family wigwams
was later zoned “M-2”
benzene, toluene, xylene
lead, cyanide, and PCB’s
soaked the soil
leached the creek bed &
settled in the flesh of wildlife

upstream human waste
is diverted further underground
through the Delavan Drain

sourced through glacial deposits
re-energized from a subterranean lake
how much water
to wash away a century of sin

© 2017-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

b kwik

running through b kwik
sweaty hair
football gear
spikes clicking across
Imperial tile

tore-up turf
trailing behind
grabbing milk
grabbing bread

priced for convenience
for the working class

at checkout
a “secret” treat

dad waits in the car
window down
WKBW on the radio
in the strip plaza
sited to block competition
since the Super Duper
exploded under suspicious

bricks blown for blocks
on Mother’s Day
as the family business
succumbed to market forces

we head for home
with what we need
oblivious to the desperation
that drove a son to arson

when he finally had to admit
there was no longer space
for a six aisle grocery

© 2018-19 Brian Brown-Cashdollar