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

tore-up turf trailing behind
grabbing milk
grabbing bread

priced for convenience
for the working class

sometimes at checkout
a snuck treat

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

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

we head 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


Sue Radziwon

Sue Radziwon

I started writing
because of
Sue Radziwon
I couldn’t say
I loved the way
your whole body laughed
collapsing to the floor
shrouding your face
in chestnut hair

I started writing
because of
Sue Radziwon
I didn’t know
how to say sorry —
losing your dad
so young

I started writing
because of
Sue Radziwon
to find a voice
a place, a purpose

I started writing
it was the best
I could do


© 2019-2022 Brian Brown-Cashdollar


The Art of Wealth Creation

I close the book
eight years for this…
I’ve studied the formulas
the recipes, the maps
they just don’t survive the outside


raw materials,
access to capital,
markets and,
no mention of soil or precipitation
no value assigned to caregiving or societal cohesion

NY 400
from Maple I round the on-ramp
I see alchemy in action
on the petroleum tarmac of the centre–periphery expressway

to the shoulder dragged from the path of oncoming traffic
mammalian beasts struck down by passers-by
flesh, fur, blood
into the road
to brown
to gold

here on the municipal,
the micro — level
the immutable laws of economics are reversed

capital-flows and resources spread outward to outlying communities
where wealth can be properly cared-for and nurtured

roads always make me remember
paralleling the Inga-Shaba transmission route
always the passenger never the driver
here, the natural laws of commerce were observed

sealed high-voltage lines protected
barbed wire and cameras from the Inga dams to the Kulwezi mines
the entire 11 hundred mile stretch
three days if we’re lucky, but we always planned for five

from the headwaters carried along roads fresh cut from wilderness
the soil cap bleeds out in the first rains after tree fall
the rest is plundered more methodically:
tv, and,

Zairians, now Congolese
attempt to steal the electricity they will finance for decades to come
leaving the occasional charred or shot body scattered along the road side

a temporary biological testament
to desperation, lawlessness, and economic barbarism

whether pushed in front of traffic by the spread of unregulated sprawl
or fried or executed by the chicanery of global trade and crony capitalism
victims are seen as perpetrators or pests

I feed into the I-90 with other commuters
merging traffic, sipping coffee
and too many fuckers playing with phones
the commerce of it all

books always tell the tale
although often not the one we were hoping for

those expert in the secrets of the Emerald Tablet
believe their practice to be a clear path to riches and economic development

whether transforming lead into gold
or trusting in extraction and export-oriented production

whether their faith lies in Hermeticism or competitive advantage
makes no difference

the poor will be poorer
the rich will get richer

with the polite-society cover of formulas, policies and structural adjustments
from Congo to the U.S. from the Kisangani-Buta Road to the 400
the centre-periphery model performs as desired
although it seems more gas-lighting than science

the lifeblood of peoples, the lifeblood of nations, drained
the destitute to the prosperous
we know who writes history
so there’s no book for that

flowing over asphalt
ground into the pavement
from red
to brown
to gold

© 2003-2022 Brian Brown-Cashdollar


Scajaquada (Final)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt good about where this was going, but I realized I wasn’t really sure what it was about. I told one of my kids, I finally figured it out, and she asked how I could be writing something for 4 years and not know what it’s about. I told her, I write like that all the time if I see/feel/think something worth capturing I write it down. If there’s something there, I usually end up going back to it, often again and again, without having any idea what I’m really looking at. This went through 40+ drafts, and last week it dawned on me. I’m not going to lay it out, because that’s the poem’s job, but after that I was better able to focus on some of the details. For those who read the earlier versions, it still retains a lot, but this time with an actual direction. And I’m officially going to call this done.



deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’, deyohgwa’
topping expansion joints
rubber over steel – freeway’s heartbeat

looking out the window – Scajaquada
a word I heard since I could ride in back
more than a Buffalo word that sets us apart – deyohgwa’
more than an expressway that segregates and divides – deyohgwa’
more than a stream that drains and dumps – deyohgwa’
more than a street that doubles as a headstone – deyohgwa’

nearing the bank the smell of sewage and industrial waste is thick
after four miles underground under a broken boom
dangling across the 20 foot culvert
entering the cemetery — somehow
it still flows like water
still flowing over 400 million year old dolomite
still carving Serenity Falls — undisturbed only here
not channeled
not tunneled
not until middle age did I visit Forest Lawn

sitting creek side the call of water and wildlife drown out the city
below in Moffett’s Grove, the last parcel to receive the dead
two young sunbathers in appropriately black bikinis
recline safely away from the leer of living men
with only male finches and cicadas within earshot
wrapping ‘round the girls, the creek quietly descends

Only surfaced for a mile, life still manages
two foot carp, watgá’steowe:s
covers in mud sounds so much better than bottom feeder
sparrows, black birds and so many geese
then again diverted under the old Gala Waters
because it’s too polluted for park goers

I pick up the trail beyond the park
past the remaining glory of the Expo
and the decades of reclamation attempts
until I’m under concrete mangroves
and I’m carried back by the call of migrating cars overhead

past piers, girders and deck – deyohgwa’
past the smelting flame of the iron works – deyohgwa’
past the whir, grind, dust of sawmills – deyohgwa’
past the putrid mountain of refuse – deyohgwa’
past those foraging for pickings

we always seem to find the resources to create MORE
past the shipyards and the mighty masts rising like trees – deyohgwa’

I watch the forest settle back into the earth
swaying with the wind, grasses buffer the creek’s edge
it seems calm as it forgets its future
at the mouth in the distance
smoke rises from longhouses
girls schucking and shelling corn
old women weaving baskets in the shade
tanned skins drying by air
Philip Conjockety lives here
creekside with his family

entertaining settlers
pioneers believe him
the oldest living man
retelling tales of nations and explorers
stories of his father, the last of the Kah Kwa
a chief among the Seneca — felled by fire water

the maiden of the mist who warned her people
of the poisonous glacial serpent that drove them from their ancestral lands
that created the Horseshoe Falls and forced the gods to the sky
now they would abandoned their land
abandoning cornfields to brownfields
M2 – General Industrial District
benzene, toluene, xylene, lead, cyanide, and PCB’s
as history leaches back into the creek bed
and settles in the flesh of wildlife

I turn back at the sign that warns
“be safe walk with a friend”
a small bronze plaque reads
Commodore Perry named the creek after the noble elder
by his Seneca name ska-dyoh-gwa-deh
“beyond the multitude”

why am I surprised?
a name, a word can make so much unseen
a people, a waterway, a language, a history — disappeared

above the mangrove piers, rubber and steel echo
timed right it’s a quick route out of the city
fast enough to ignore the creek that languishes below – deyohgwa’
fast enough to forget the appropriation of Seneca land – deyohgwa’
fast enough to excuse the legacy of industrialization – deyohgwa’
fast enough to hide the homeless – deyohgwa’
fast enough to beat the rush


Scajaquada (skuh-JA-qua-duh)
deyohgwa’ (day-yoh-gwah!)
watgá’steowe:s (waw-tgawh!-stay-oh-ways)

© 2017-2021 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Lackawanna Poems

I’ve written several plus poems that have something to do with Lackawanna (NY). Some are done. Some are perpetually in progress. Here are three:

Map to Gramma’s Grave

Salvador said
come see
come help
clean, maintain
the common cemetery
somos muy comunitarios
together, we care for our own

la comunidad Clavijo Abajo
a scattering of huts
loosely drawn to a dirt highway
at the base of the foothills
of the Cordillera Central

sweeping dust, pulling weeds
straightening head stones
without us
our dead
would disappear

back home
it’s a solitary ritual
it’s now my turn
to tend the graves
soy muy familiero

pry the markers
pour 3 inches of sand
then gravel
reset them,

more than three decades
since I visited their plots
Uncle Clayton
was too old to say

I found them
buried under
a lifetime of memory

near Lackawanna’s center
in the shadow of the Basilica
in Glorious Mysteries
of the Rosary Shrine

from the NW corner sign
37 paces towards
the center obelisk
turn left and follow
diagonally laid stones
many receding
subsumed by gravity
and the loss of family

seven and a half paces
and there
gramma, grampa
      and Aunt Wawie
because she had nowhere else to go

© 2006-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar

Sugar Straw

On Saturdays
the mall is still mobbed
crawling with security
protecting shoppers
from changing
demographics , and
teens, being teens
black, brown, and white
strategically stationed
throughout the concourses

near an exit
4 Lackawanna girls
once Irish, then Italian
now Yemeni
squeeze together
waiting for their ride
black and floral satin hijabs
lean in excitedly
for the latest

then the youngest
throws back her head
trying to get every last grain
from a sugar straw

© 2018-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar


by ship they came
Italy to Lovejoy
breathe in
the fuel of work

rounding the corner
William to Bailey,
the sweet heavy cloud
of hauling

wheel spins center
Iron Island to Route 62
clutch, shift, release,

motors rumble like grampa
South Buffalo to Lackawanna
before the steel mill
heart attack took him

moving product to market
reminded of the open road
carrying me and once exotic fruit
to port and home

© 2012-2019 Brian Brown-Cashdollar