Madeleine Braun

Burning Pine

It is Easter
we walk up the driveway
inside she unwraps a plate of pre-cut watermelon
places it on the table beside a heaping bowl of roll kuchen

Everyone is late
I stare at the plates
Grandma unwraps more food:
turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, potato salad, Jell-O salad, iced tea, a tray of assorted pops.
she has everything pre-made pre-saran-wrapped

Grandpa sits in his chair
Lay-Z-boy recliner draped with a Goldeyes blanket:
balls flying, bats swinging, caps pulled down low over player’s eyes

Everyone walks up the driveway they
smell like pine needles
swayed & glossy

Pyramid Scheme
fat hands
primary coloured sweatsuit
Grandma

Grandma
grabs me
both her hands around my waist and squeezes she
lets go
points
at my Uncle’s tummy

It’s another folded page

Grandpa used to dog-ear the bible
until the folds were
brittle and see-through

Dad is crying and helping carry the coffin
the air reeks like pine
Grandpa’s baseball blanket is draped on his coffin it
starts to slip it
falls on the ground
someone steps on it before it
is scooped up

Dad and I are driving home from Altona to Winnipeg
it is a prairie night
the sky is black and forever the stars are
reflecting off the snow or the snow is a reflection of the
stars or pieces of star shoot across our vision
beautiful
highway yellow lines hypnotic like they say:
To stay in your lane you need to look ahead

Dad’s eyes keep heavy lidding I
talk to him he
only wants to talk about failure and capitalism or
is that me

Grandpa worked at the bank and
Grandma can’t stop gambling
it has gotten worse
since he died
she even
sits
on the boxy computer when we visit and
pretends to answer emails from friends we
know don’t exist

Dad is crying again because my brother and his girlfriend are singing together
beautiful
my brother smells like the tree he
strains his voice to sound like Freddy Mercury

Dad has started teaching rock-n-roller’s how to scream but
he only just started crying publicly
and stopped screaming himself altogether

My phone rings
Grandpa is dead after his fifth heart attack
it’s summer
late June we’re
hung-over
dopey
in our
friends loft apartment I
tell you
you say,
he’ll be okay
touch my shoulder

Brown leather belt before
dentures in water cups beside                                                                      
plastic hospital bed

The heroic tale,
A Sign:
Uncle drops the belt down a dilapidated chimney up town
and the beatings stop completely

I know a young woman from Altona who
was raped at 15
she never went into detail but I met him later when she
got back with him
he is pocked and massive and smells like rancid pine needles he
touches my waist low when she’s not looking

Everyone is at our house for Christmas we’re
jamming Killer Queen
Aunty runs up to the piano and
skoots my dad over to the right of the bench
joins him on the keys

Everyone’s eyes are wide
crimson cheeks
stamping feet
there’s a manic tension like water bowing up over a cup
voices fill empty spaces
when the song ends the high
drops
the sweat
smells
like sour Christmas

Ohba Yo! my aunty says to my father
they have the same large blue eyes and small
sharp mouths and dark
brown hairs and severe
strong hands

I know a woman from rural Manitoba who was beaten by her husband when
he got high on Crystal he
got into a motorcycle accident recently suffers
amnesia he
forgets everything he ever did to her and the kids she
takes him back

The mind is a wonder lets
horrific particulars of memory fall away
wants to live a certain way

This roll of film only displays
happy
expose the darkness to light
blind

We are all in a field you
are all speaking Low German
we are surrounded by bottles filled with pine-needles my
mother keeps dumping them out and refilling them

A fat hand underneath the cuff of a primary coloured sweat suit grabs
white ceramic plates covered in saran wrap from the fridge

We aren’t waiting for anyone
Grandma

Grandma
puts leftover turkey, white buns, pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, coleslaw, and soft salami on the table

My father begins
he breathes deeply into his belly opening his
mouth his
baritone voice bellows:
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow …

We eat lunch we
kiss grandma’s cheek we
walk out
over the driveway

That bungalow home in Altona where
dad saved cash to buy a guitar and records to learn how
to become and escape
is
sold to pay back the bank

I wasn’t there but my sister, brother, mother, father helped her pack
she made them lunch and checked her emails she
used to make my mom cry by pointing out her shape

The day they’re packing up I sit in the
Halifax Public Garden’s under a weeping willow tree that
roofs an antique bench I’m
burning pine needles and acidic liquid is seeping out of my skin

When I stand up my head swims sloppy like
mercury rolling around on the floor                                                              
I meet a friend a
Nova Scotian born and raised we
walk up Citadel Hill
burn pine until the early morning lights.

Everyone is reacting to a trauma subconsciously or otherwise

I hang out with my neighbor who happens to be a simple boy because I’m sad? He thinks it would be funny if there was a resident Grandma in our apartment building who would hang out in the backyard and practice shooting while drinking America.
As he says this he touches my bruised knee and he touches it gently.

Every thing is actually happening in threes. I have a great example story about this.

My brother flies off his bicycle and breaks his collarbone. My brother spills soup on himself and extracts 2nd degree burns. My brother falls in a manhole and throws out his back. This didn’t happen in three days or three weeks but over one week.

Simple boy is navigating his hand up my skirt and as he does I ask him who he voted for. When he says Bernie I ask why. He says, “if Trump is president it wont actually affect me that much. I’ll still have my deli sandwiches. I’ll still have my room with my mattress on the floor. I’ll still have a photo of me and my family on the wall.”

On the phone my brother tells me another story about some faggy dude he met who didn’t like Queen. When he says faggy he uses it the way one would use a world like dumb or undereducated even. He says: “This faggy dude came over last night because he started dating Cindy (who is my brothers roommate) and he puts on fucking Sonic Youth – so I just change it to Queen and he’s like, dude, this song sucks, when fucking Killer Queen is playing, so I tell him he’s a fucking faggot and he tries to punch me …”

Simple boy is very tall. We are standing up now. He is clumsily spinning me in circles. I tell him my hip hurts so we sit down and he tells me he works with metal. He tells me he can make a rose out of a piece of sheet metal. He tells me it is beautiful.

Last night while I was ID checking at the Indie Pop Trifecta concert at the park I meet an old man named Gustave. Gustave asks me to “pick a colour” from a variety of origami papers he has in a little steel envelope. He says, “if you do I’ll make you something special.” His voice is very Guy-Maddin-Transylvanian. He walks away and makes a tiny hot pink rose for 40 minutes. He attaches it to a little branch and hands it to me. He hands a second tiny hot pink rose to my coworker and with shrugging shoulders says, “So, which one of you is taking me home?”

I make a joke and a man I’m serving reaches up to playfully punch me but stops himself. He says, “don’t get me wrong, I would love to touch you but I’m old. Old men aren’t supposed to touch young women.” So rose petals fall out my closed fingers and onto the floor when I playfully punch him back.

Brother comes into a bar I work at and says to his friend, “she looks really sexy tonight” and points at me. He says it loudly. Loudly enough that people who know us shift uncomfortably.

Try it from a distance:

A brother alien walks into the alien vaping bar with his friend where his little sister works. She is supplying the patrons with vape supplies. She looks nice because when she got dressed this afternoon she put on an outfit she felt nice in and it fits her well and displays that she has a waist and legs. She puts on a pretty lilac lipstick that looks beautiful against her granny apple coloured skin. Her face looks like it should – symmetrical and good featured. She has healthy colour in her cheeks. When her brother walks in with his friends he sees her and says, to his friend beside him who once put his hand on her vagina when she fell asleep beside him on the futon in her parent’s basement when they were all watching TV, “She looks really sexy tonight.” And nudges his friend and points at her. People in the vape bar know they are related. She blushes violently violet. She says, don’t say that, to her brother in a pretty clipped tone. He says, “I’m just recognizing your beauty, you don’t need to be a bitch.”

Sad and weird: feeling for days now.
I am just telling you stories
I have to tell you stories because
There is a little volcano in my sensitive stomach that keeps exploding.
The volcano has a bad temperament
It’s connected to my brain
My brain is actually made up of all the little people who hang out on the volcano edge.
They are heat proof.
They decide how to react to what I see.
It’s useful
They decipher situations and if they are upsetting.

Anyway, the other day I was at work, putting wristbands on people at a Tame Impala concert in the park and a youngish man came and stood beside me. He stood beside me and said, cool volunteer gig, and started participating. He was having fun checking people’s ID’s and he was pretty funny so I was partaking in light banter with him. My brain felt fine and called upon the person on the volcano edge who is very good at social situations. Together we laughed and made our new friend laugh however, things really took a turn for the worst when two women approached us who were carrying trays of very yummy looking food and I was checking their ID’s and the man said, “you women are so beautiful but we should really talk about your caloric intake…”

I am laying in bed beside the simple boy after nothing worked out and he is telling me a story. He wants to get a cooler. You know, just a little Coleman’s cooler. He wants to put all of his money inside of that cooler and drive somewhere quiet where he will buy land. There he will live with his money in a little cooler that will sit under his lawn chair on his property. He will live all alone. He will drive to the store when he needs beer and cigarettes but he wont need to go too often because he will also build a massive cooler that will be his fridge. He will build a semi-permanent roof that will fit onto the back of his truck. He will put his mattress under the roof. He will put the photo of his grandpa beside his bed. He will put the fridge in the shade. He will grow simple crops. He will put the cooler full of his money beside his bed at night. He will have a good gun for shooting big game. A good gun for shooting predators.

I wonder how he will get on without his deli sandwiches but I quickly realize it doesn’t matter because he just doesn’t need much and he’ll eat something else.

He has a button that says, “people who smoke and drink are not bad people.”

I sleep so well in his bed that I miss my next day completely. He wakes up with me and tells me he has the next three days off. He ices my bruised body. He tells me he’s sorry it hurts. He tells me about his ex girlfriend who is Australian and a pro-tap-dancer. He tells me she used to tap dance in grocery stores.

 

You’re hearing conversations differently

Everyone thinks it’s interesting to talk about backgrounds
It draws attention to looks
Engrained mannerisms
Impressive not so
Impressive ancestors

In this conversation there is
Always the matter of time
So it’s only a matter of time
Until you’re always aware of your impending death

You don’t want to think about that!
That’s why you binge drink and dance at night.

Letting go of your inhibitions is important
But how about those booze blues?
And forgotten conversations?
And Guilt
————-PILED ON
————————GUILT
—————————–piled on

I only make bad decisions
Your friend recently said to you

You made your bed. Now you have to
think in it.
Anecdote for crying:
Put your head in a paper bag.
Put your glasses on!

You look different with your glasses on.
Yeah?
Yeah. Not bad just … different.
D-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t.
Yeah. Different.

You put a paper bag over your head
You cut holes in it
You think better
You turn it around
There are eyes in the back of your head

When you take the bag off there’s a woman
With half an arm
It wiggles like the end is a hand                                                                    
You wonder if it’s hard for her to pee
No
She’s figured that out by now

You are blessed
You have a body that works
Really well
Pretty well
The only reason it’s not working great!
Is becauseofyourbrain

Your brain is like a trap door that’s stuck open
People and shit keep falling through it

Like this guy over here talking about Visa’s
Just get married! some girl suggests
No! No! he responds. That’s not the solution.
He’s right for him
Everyone has ancestors and opinions about Visa’s

Someone outside of the bar gives you a cigarette
Parliament or Marlboro Light?
————-I don’t care.
You look like that girl. That girl …
————-That girl?
Frommmmm … who’s the girl everyone always tells you you look like?

————-Parliament please.
Everyone has ancestors who look like movie stars or aliens

You work the door at the hotel bar
Everytime you get up someone takes your seat
Yesterday, someone was readings your book
She said, I’m just trying to look smarter than I am
You didn’t like that
Today it is a pre-teen
You ask her if she is taking your job
She looks at you
Pre-teen
You like that

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself

Children are choreographing modern dances in the hotel lobby
Their bodies move like homemade linguini
Draped over a string
Clipped on a clothesline across the kitchen
Their noodle bodies bend

When one ends
Innocence becomes ones delusion of oneself

Do you take dance classes? you ask one of the girls dancing
Yes, she responds

Innocence is the hallucination that one is a great dancer

What kind? you ask
Modern now
She flips her head
She dances
Away

Innocence ends when variation ceases

She flips her head
She dances
Away


Madeleine Braun’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in The Impressment Gang and Crit. She is from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the evening of today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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